Our criticism of the so-called Local Plan ‘Consultation’

Babergh /Suffolk Public Consultation on the Draft Sudbury Local Plan held on 23 February 2015.

Imagine the Reception area of the Kingfisher Leisure Centre. It’s Friday afternoon, the last day of half-term. Children are running around in swimming costumes, parents and carers coming and going. It’s busy, noisy and full of kids having fun. Just as it should be – except that in a tiny corner of the reception area the future of our town was apparently open to ‘public consultation’ to discuss how the town would grow from now until 2031.

 

A public consultation? In the bustling Reception area of a swimming pool? Did the organisers know we have a perfectly good Town Hall much more fit for purpose?  Was it advertised locally with posters and flyers? And why half-term, with many people away?

 

This process, open only from 4-8 pm, was dealing with major issues for Sudbury, such as the locations for a further 500 houses on top of the extensive Chilton Woods and Harp Close Meadow projects, plus the huge implications of a bypass. Even more worrying was that there was nothing about the unique qualities of our town and its setting.

 

A few people stopped to find out what was going on but as there were only two advisers, many were forced to wait and then gave up in exasperation. Most had young children and were probably more concerned with getting them home while avoiding the Friday evening (end-of-half-term) traffic.

 

Our members could find no display material on any stands or even the wall. The representatives behind the small desk (who were they? They wore no badges) had one copy of the proposals which was there only to be read, not taken away.There was nowhere to sit down and study what little material was available, and all we were allowed to take away were the blank response forms. We came away none the wiser; it was clear that anyone interested in commenting would have to download the information from the website. And while it appears that many councils allow 12 weeks for consultation, Babergh wanted a response in two-and-a-half weeks.

 

Shame on you, Babergh and Mid Suffolk. This was an insult to our intelligence and Sudbury deserves far better. There are plenty of people out there who would be happy to take an active part in a consultation, assisting and informing with lots of ideas and constructive criticism.

 

But you have to play your part too. Provide us with a proper ‘public consultation’ and we’ll be there.

 

Lorna Hoey

Chair

The Sudbury Society