Your chance to shape Beccles' future over next 20 years
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A neighbourhood plan has been developed to shape the future of Beccles over the next 20 years.
The long-term plan has been shaped by a working group of Beccles residents and the town council.
A number of "challenges" have been identified in the plan, including a shortage of affordable and rented housing, while the town is also believed to be lacking local job opportunities, community facilities and visitor accommodation.
The plan states the vision of the town will include "By 2036, the Beccles Southern Relief Road will have been long completed. Heavy goods vehicles will no longer come into the town centre other than for deliveries and this, together with smart systems to reduce speeding as well as widened pavements, will provide more space for pedestrians.
"This will have improved the environment for shopping and leisure, particularly by improving pedestrian safety and also by reducing air pollution.
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"Beccles Medical Centre and other health services will have expanded to meet increased demand for both physical and mental care.
"There will be new and enhanced community spaces for parents, children and teenagers, including the new skate park and inclusive play areas.
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"The town will have a new leisure centre and/or indoor swimming pool to encourage active lifestyles for residents and visitors and provide a range of activities to suit all ages.
"Open spaces at Waveney Meadow, the Common and Beccles Quay will have been much improved to provide an enhanced attraction.
"The water quality of the River Waveney will have improved and flood risk will have been mitigated."
The plan also highlights the Beccles and Worlingham Garden Neighbourhood, which is included in East Suffolk Council's Waveney Local Plan, and could see around 1,250 new homes, a retirement community, two primary schools, a country park, sports facilities, allotments and open space, and a community hub including a convenience store.
Proposed for land south of Beccles, the garden neighbourhood is described as a "major" opportunity to address the town's needs, although final plans are still being drawn up.
The plan acknowledges the impact an influx of new residents could have on the town's roads, and also proposes improving walking and cycling routes to encourage people to not travel by car, while localised plans could tackle issues at problem junctions around Beccles.
It will also see Beccles Town Council work alongside electric vehicle infrastructure providers to create a comprehensive network of public charging points at key destinations.
In the town centre, the plan acknowledges the decline of traditional high street shops and states uses for premises could include "retail and services, offices, hotels and leisure use," as well as other uses which maintain footfall in the town centre.
It says: "A more flexible and proactive approach is required if the town centre is to retain its role as a hub of community activity.
"While traditional retail uses within the town centre will be supported and encouraged, the neighbourhood plan seeks to provide a policy framework for allowing other types of use where vacancies are in evidence and have been so for some time."
In 2019, the working group asked residents and organisations in the town what they thought of the plan, and took into account their ideas and feedback.
The plan states a number of common themes arose from the consultations, including improved facilities for both young and older age groups for play, sports and social gatherings, with an indoor swimming pool frequently requested, while concerns were also raised about access to GPs.
Chris Greenhill, chair of the group which drafted the plan, said: "We've asked many people what would make the town a better place to live and work in, and now we want people to look at the Neighbourhood Plan and see if we've got it right."
Copies of the plan are now available for public feedback until February 8, 2021, with any further feedback set to go to an independent inspector to decide on any possible changes.
A referendum will then be held to ask Beccles residents whether they agree with the plan.
Copies of the proposed plan are available online at https://eastsuffolk.inconsult.uk/consult.ti/BecclesNP2020.