Woods Lane development: Woodbridge suffers impact without benefits

Feelings are running high in Woodbridge over Bloor Homes’ proposed closure of Woods Lane “as agreed with Suffolk Coastal local authority”.

And while neither development nor road is in Woodbridge,  Woodbridge will get the congestion without any benefits. We are told our Woodbridge through road will be the artery for diverted traffic for months.

Thus – yet again – the unintended consequences of untrammelled development without strategic planning.

I have some sympathy with the  District Council:  caught between the rock of governmental pressure to build houses and a ‘market will decide’ mentality that has no care whether these houses are homes – or second homes. However this is their party, their policy. They must not turn their backs on responsibility for it because it is not only unpopular but uworkable and unjust.

There is no doubt homes are needed but not these ones. Property hotspot Woodbridge lacks housing for the lowpaid hard workers on whom the town relies: retained firefighters, care workers, teachers, nurses, police, paramedics. And we need them to live here, not commute in.

Reports of the Bloor development mention it will deliver an unspecified number of (the laughably misnamed) ‘affordable housing’ units, priced at 80% of market rate. This will not help any care worker, or teacher  to get a foot on the property ladder – yet the road closure will certainly prevent them from arriving at their essential place of work on time.

What tragic irony!

Woodbridge does need housing at social rent (that’s 65% of market rent) for those we rely on and who can’t afford to live here. Sadly, I can find  no suggestion that any of the housing build by Bloor will be of this type.

What to do? In the short term I hope some solution can be found to this outrageous imposition on the general public by a company set up for private profit.  It should not be beyond the wit of man – or woman either. Bloor could create a temporary bypass across its own development land maybe? I will be writing to suggest this to Bloor, county and district councils and our MP.

I also urge Suffolk Coastal – who agreed this closure – and Suffolk County who will enforce it to dig deep in their pockets and fund projects to ameliorate the problems caused by this closure. I am thinking here specifically of the Woodbridge 20mph and associated traffic calming scheme

Join the CONSULTATION & improve the THOROUGHFARE

thumbnail of Thoroughfare Consultation 2017 Sign Options
Woodbridge Thoroughfare Consultation’s three options for signs. Click to download full details

Come to Woodbridge Library, 25th September to 1 October 2017, and help decide the best way forward for  Woodbridge’s Thoroughfare.

The Thoroughfare – Woodbridge’s vibrant retail heart – has had increasing problems with traffic and parking in recent years. Residents, visitors, shoppers and traders have all expressed concern

Our Problem: is that both access to and parking in Woodbridge Thoroughfare is governed by a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO). It’s complicated, years out of date, and no longer fit for purpose. The traffic signs we can put up are legally prescribed by the TRO. This means they are very complicated too.

The TRO no longer reflects the needs and usage of people in the Thoroughfare. 

The Solution:  We need to simplify the Thoroughfare TRO and make sure it reflects the current needs of people in Woodbridge.
We can then have simpler signs.

The Thoroughfare Working Group has worked hard for ten months looking at the needs and requirements of traders, residents, visitors and shoppers. We have come up with three options:

thumbnail of Thoroughfare Consultation 2017 Questionnaire
Consultation Questionnaire. Click to download. When finished, either a) drop it in at library before Sunday 1 Oct b) scan or photograph and email  to Caroline.page@suffolk.gov.uk  or c) post to Caroline Page, 117 Ipswich Rd, Woodbridge IP12 4BY

Now we want you to fill in a questionnaire to tell us which option  you think will work best for everyone who uses the Woodbridge Thoroughfare. (Remember, at the moment, we are interested in which option you prefer.  We will get to enforcement later.)

So, this is a lot of work. Why not just leave things as they are?   This is not an option:

  • Many people say, “All we need’s a Traffic Warden”. Traffic wardens were abolished THIRTEEN YEARS ago under the Traffic Management Act 2004, which passed the responsibility for enforcing on-street violations to the police.
  • Off-street parking in Woodbridge carparks is enforced by parking attendants employed by SCDC. Many people confuse these with traffic wardens, but SCDC parking attendants could only tackle on-street violations if and when  our District Council decriminalises parking and takes responsibility for it
  • Suffolk Coastal will finally be taking over responsibility for on-street parking in 2019
  • However, if Woodbridge does not make changes to the current Thoroughfare TRO, the current level of non-enforcement will not continue. Unless we decide changes, the current TRO lines etc will just be repainted and all the current regulations will be enforced as they currently stand by SCDC when it takes over from the police.
  • SCDC will not be able to cherry-pick the dead or unnecessary regulations. As the TRO is significantly out of date this could cause major problems.

There are other considerations that need to be looked at in any decision-making:

ACCESS: Research by the TWG has discovered that a significant number of residential homes and retail properties only have accessfrom the Thoroughfare.

CHANGING DELIVERY/RETAIL PATTERNS: when the current TRO was designed, there were no Tesco/Ocado/Amazon deliveries. Retailers would receive weekly deliveries from large lorries. When it cameinto force, Woodbridge had a  Wednesday half-day. Now many traders open 7 days  a week,

DISABLED ACCESS: a summer 2017 survey by the Suffolk Coastal Disability Forum disclosed that the access lost to disabled people by on-street parking in the Thoroughfare outweighed the access gained by disabled on-street parking

WIDTH of PARKING BAYS: one marked bay in the Thoroughfare (the ex-Sant-Studio bay ) is too narrow for modern vehicles

INCREASE IN SIZE of VEHICLES: modern cars are very much wider than cars were two or three decades ago. This means that parking has greater impact on pedestrians and other traffic

 

Housing Day : what Suffolk needs

Today is #HousingDay.

Do you know people desperate for to find or afford somewhere to live?   In this county – with new built estates rising everywhere – I know plenty.

The answer? Simple. We need to stop pandaring to the free market -which is creating ever more homes and second homes for the affluent – and start planning and building the housing that everyday people need.

Purpose-built council housing. For those starting out,  for young families, the disabled, the low waged (public sector workers for example) , those that need to downsize.

Abolish that strangest of all supposed human rights  – the ‘right to buy.’ Replace it with “the right to have a truly affordable roof over your head.” (And don’t let those weasel words ‘affordable housing‘ con you. It means 80% of market rates. In an area where houses cost £1m to buy, thousands per month to rent ‘affordable housing’ is, what? We need social housing because that alone is truly affordable).

And we must stop mouthing all this ‘let the market decide’ malarkey. The market consists of builders who – given the choice – want to build high end executive homes because they make the best profit. What do we need? Homes for the young, the young families, the disabled, the low waged, the elderly. Homes for everyone who makes up our society – or we lose it.

Not necessarily homes to own. One of the reasons ‘social housing’ sometimes gets such a bad press is that there is now so little of it keft that it may be more likely to be let to people with the most significant problems or needs – and thus give it an unfair reputation.

Yet why shouldn’t many more people live this way? It happens elsewhere without difficulty. It used to be the way of life here.

Home ownership was an anomaly of the second half of the twentieth century

When I was young, lots of low-waged people were able to live in the centre of towns and cities. In solid Victorian terraced council houses now sold off under right to buy, worth a million or so, and maybe not even lived in full time by those that now own them. Even at rental income, way outside the pockets of your average working family.

And the people who our towns and cities need and rely on (teachers, nurses, carers, firefighters, young workers etc) sofa-surf, commute incredible distances or plain give up.

An end to laissez faire, say I. Let’s constrain the free market and go back to the politics of common sense – and have a solid practical unflashy homes policy built on the needs of the people rather than what companies and organizations want to build!