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Boundary Committee's verdict causes controversy in market towns

PUBLISHED: 11:44 11 July 2008 | UPDATED: 07:31 01 August 2010

BECCLES, Bungay and Halesworth could fined themselves in a new unitary authority minus Ipswich and Lowestoft if the Boundary Committee for England proposals are ultimately adopted.

BECCLES, Bungay and Halesworth could fined themselves in a new unitary authority minus Ipswich and Lowestoft if the Boundary Committee for England proposals are ultimately adopted.

And that has brought concern this week from civic leaders in Bungay and Halesworth, though Beccles gave a cautious welcome to the fact that the Yartoft option (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth linking in one single authority) seemed to be off the agenda.

The preferred options announced this week see Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth placed within a rural Suffolk council and separated from Lowestoft, with a single super authority in Norfolk which would controversially include Lowestoft, and a separate council in Suffolk for Ipswich and Felixstowe.

Meanwhile a third rural Suffolk option would stretch as far north as Beccles, as far west as Newmarket, and down to Sudbury in the south.

The proposals were met with a generally negative response from council members in Beccles, Bungay and Halesworth.

Bungay Mayor John Groom said that he feared the town would be unable to compete with the larger towns in the authority: “It's going to hit us hard - it's obvious we're never going to compete and I feel quite strongly that things should stay as they are.”

Meanwhile Halesworth Town Councillor Alan Holzer said that he thought Suffolk should stay as a single authority: “I can't see anything in this business of splitting up Suffolk.

“What you are doing is taking away the wealthiest areas and leaving them on their tod. I personally think that Suffolk should be a unitary authority.”

However there was a rather more positive take on the situation from David Smith, Mayor of Beccles, who was pleased that the 'Yartoft' option appears to have been scrapped. He said: “It must be remembered that these are just proposals, but it would appear that the spectre of Yartoft has been lifted.

“At the moment it would appear encouraging as we would still be a part of Suffolk, and I think the greater proportion of people wanted to preserve the town's identity within Suffolk.”

He also said that he did not feel Beccles would be short-changed within a larger council with larger towns because the changes would free up more funds: “Remember there is going to be cost saving in changing to a one tier system from a two tier system - many of the services and parts of the council were somewhat duplicated.”

Waveney District Council leader and Beccles councillor Mark Bee has said that the proposals would be a “messy nonsense,” and would “only deliver confusion:” “Rural Waveney, which has often been in second place to Lowestoft, will now be in third or fourth place to towns in a bigger Suffolk council. Our market towns will be lost.

“This is a total dog's dinner and not something that fits into any of the consultations that took place.”

Meanwhile the proposals were branded “bizarre and unreasonable” by South Norfolk Council leader John Fuller, who had campaigned for a four-council solution.

The committee is also seeking views on two alternatives including a doughnut model of a greater Norwich council plus a rest of Norfolk including Lowestoft, and a 'wedge' model of Norwich, Yarmouth and Lowestoft.

In Suffolk the Committee says there is also merit in exploring a single council option as well, which Suffolk County Council leader Jeremy Pembroke said he will continue to push for.

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