It would be fair to say that the Gateway 14 development has been a part of my life for the best part of five years now, with the initial controversy over the placement of a business and enterprise park on our doorstep succeeded by the long and wearying hybrid planning application phase during which a plucky parish council, working alongside a residents actions group, strove to improve the original proposals.
In the end, the District Council, the owners of Gateway 14, pretty much got their way, as was fairly inevitable. We did get some mitigations, with a bund to screen the site from the nearby group of properties at Clamp Farm, a promised electric bus service to transport workers to and from Stowmarket town centre and improvements to the lighting and ecosystem protection.
Last week saw a ceremony to mark the commencement of work on the new distribution centre for "The Range" and today we had the official opening of Gateway Boulevard, the spine road for the development.
So far, so meh. But, for residents of Creeting St Peter, it meant the final closure of our old road to Stowmarket, and its replacement with a new, more direct route to Tesco (our nearest supermarket), Stowmarket and the A14. And so, a few of us turned up for the opening ceremony.
What had been a bright and sunny morning had become a rather raw, cloudy afternoon, heavy with the threat of rain, but the local dignitaries had turned up, councillors, the Mayor of Stowmarket and the board of Gateway 14 Ltd, to witness the cutting of a ribbon by James Caston, Chair of Mid Suffolk District Council.
With the official opening complete, there was an offer of tea and cake. However, given that it was a bit bleak, and I had work to get back to, Ros and I decided to skip the free calories and drive home... using the new road. In the picture, you might make out a yellow van, out of which an employee of the contractors got before kicking the cones into the nearby ditch and thus effectively opening the road to through traffic, which makes us the second people to drive out of Gateway 14 towards the Creetings.
I'll remember it for the rest of my days.
It must be said though that, finally, the whole Gateway 14 thing feels a bit more real and, for residents of Creeting St Peter, there is a tangible benefit, in that our journey times are reduced and a few existing highways problems have been solved.
It also means that we feel a little less detached from Stowmarket which, if you don't live here, might seem a bit strange. But our village has always been far enough away from Stowmarket to feel as though we're not connected, yet close enough for residents to benefit from a convenient mainline railway station and the services that a decent-sized town has to offer. I do wonder if, in time, it will change the dynamic of our community.
And now, we're all going to have to get used to using different routes to get back to the village. I'm sure that we'll adapt eventually...
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