John Perkins of Southwold and Reydon Society gives his opinion on 2016 and what lies ahead in 2017

John Perkins

John Perkins - Credit: James Bass

The main priorities for Southwold and Reydon in the coming year are to protect the local countryside from development and to preserve the unique character of Southwold High Street.

The countryside-especially around Reydon- is under pressure as never before.We are fortunate to live in an area designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) -one of only 33 in the country-but applications to build on its open spaces continue to land on planners desks .

One application last year which gave grave cause for concern was for a large warehouse in open fields next to the Reydon Business Park . Our society saw that as a gross intrusion into the AONB .Waveney council agreed and refused permission but the owner of the business then appealed and hired a team of 'experts' to give evidence at a public hearing.Fortunately the inspector threw out the appeal but pressure is still mounting.

Next year we face the biggest test yet with an application from St Felix School in Reydon to build an estate of 69 houses on land currently used as school playing fields. Once again our main objection is this would represent an unwanted intrusion into the AONB which-if allowed- would open the floodgates to dozens of other applications .

Our other main concern is the threat to Southwold High Street from the huge increase in business rates faced by shops and restaurants next year .A recent review by the Valuation Agency is recommending average increases of 140pc .The result could be catastrophic –especially for the small locally owned shops which give the High Street its distinctive character . Some have already hinted they will have to close down and this raises the prospect of the High Street dominated by national chains and charity shops which pay little or no business rates .This would be a disaster for Southwold .

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Finally some good news to enter the New Year .Unusually there was a spate of robberies in Southwold at the end of the year .The good news is that as a result new CCTV cameras incorporating the latest technology have been installed on the only road in and out of the town . So in 2017 we should all be able to sleep easier in our beds .

John Perkins, chairman, Southwold and Reydon Society

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