Pretty much ever since I arrived in the village in 2008, the fate of the land bordering our side of the A1120 slip road has haunted us. It is, I freely acknowledge, a perfect location for development, sandwiched between the East Anglian Main Line railway and the A14 with its link between the container port at Felixstowe and the Midlands.
But, up until recently, whilst there was a lot of talk about first a lorry park, and later a business and enterprise zone, nothing had actually happened, except that the site had been transferred from Creeting St Peter to Stowmarket courtesy of a change to the parish boundary. In fairness, given that such a change would enhance the financial benefit to the locality, I couldn't really complain.
However, the land was recently purchased by Mid Suffolk District Council, who now rather need to create an income stream to achieve value from their investment, and things are beginning to move rather faster.
Naturally, as the Chair of the Parish Council most affected, I am taking an interest. I'm keen, for obvious reasons, to establish a dialogue with the developers at as early a stage as possible - raising our issues at an early stage increases the likelihood that we can achieve some positive outcomes for the community, and allows for better engagement for residents.
And so, I looked to establish where I might start. The project is led by a company called Gateway14 Ltd, working in conjunction with its development partner, Jaynic Ltd. Gateway14 Ltd is in turn wholly owned by MSDC (Suffolk Holdings) Ltd, which is 100% owned by Mid Suffolk District Council. It seemed to me, therefore, that I should seek a response from the senior director of the holding company, Cllr Gerard Brewster. Cllr Brewster is the sole independent councillor in Mid Suffolk, but is Deputy Leader of the Council, having been co-opted into the Conservative-led administration - his vote gives them control of the Council on the casting vote of the Chair. He's also the Portfolio Holder for Economic Growth.
And so, I sent him a very polite e-mail;
Dear Cllr Brewster,
In my capacity as Chair of the Parish Council most seriously impacted by the Gateway 14 project, I note the information supplied in the District Council's latest press release on the subject.
I wonder if the Council is intending to consult with local residents prior to seeking planning permission, and would be grateful for your thoughts on how this might be achieved in the near future.
I would be happy to arrange opportunities for the District Council to meet (physically or virtually) with residents to outline development plans and to discuss what opportunities might arise in terms of facilities or opportunities for our village.