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East Suffolk

Back in my day East Suffolk was much like this map, except it also contained Ipswich, with West Suffolk having Bury St Edmunds as its major town. In 1974 that all changed, and my little town became part of Suffolk Coastal, which was the better half of east Suffolk!

Recently Suffolk Coastal (1st April 2019) was merged with Waveney District Council, and together they are now East Suffolk District Council. Above them is Suffolk County Council, and below any number of town and parish councils.

Felixstowe, where I live, is at the southern edge of this new council. Its port is owned by Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) Group, a company based in China. The port has always been privately owned. In 1951, Gordon Parker, an agricultural merchant, bought the Felixstowe Dock & Railway Company, which at the time was handling only grain and coal. In 1976, Felixstowe was bought by European Ferries.

June 1991, P&O sold Felixstowe to Hutchison Whampoa of Hong Kong for £90m. In June 1994, Hutchison Whampoa’s Hutchison International Port Holdings bought out Orient Overseas International’s 25% stake in Felixstowe for £50m.

It’s now the 48th largest container shipping port in the world, handling about 50% of all the UK’s traffic.

Increasingly it will be automated, meaning that many workers will lose their jobs. This will happen to many foreign-owned UK-based companies. There is an obvious lack of control of UK interests, as foreign owners will look after their own national concerns. Covid-19, and its attendant economic contraction will multiply the effects of such policies.

These changing times will have lasting effect upon the local area, yet this is not reflected in the East Suffolk Plans.

There has been bias in the housing allocation to the previous areas. Suffolk Coastal has exceeded its allocation, and its demand (by some 128%). In Felixstowe that’s because of the demands made by a large local land owner. Trinity College. Every decade this large developer comes to Felixstowe and builds a new estate. This is on land it owns, having pad about £13 an acre in he 1930’s. It exercises a stranglehold upon the local populace building cheap, classless dwellings, failing to provide any infrastructure support or listen to any pleas.

Admittedly the local Council tend to be complicit, eager to receive the extra Council Tax revenue, often without due regard to the continuing obligations it will then be obliged to provide.

Local government is complex, and that often helps confuse the public. ‘Aah,’ they shout, ‘that’s not our responsibility, that’s one of the other councils.’ Happens all the time.

District Councils, like East Suffolk, are obliged to publish five-year plans. These cost a fortune to produce, and are often ignored. There’s a constant battle within councils about interpretation.

That’s enough for one day. The allotment calls.