Since being elected on May 10th a lot of the normal interaction with other councillors has been very difficult due to the covid restrictions. Tonight, full council was held at the Newmarket race course having one of the few building that was able to seat everyone safely. I felt that it was important for my opinion, as a new councillor, to be heard on the significant matter of the Western Way Development in Bury St Edmunds. Although the written word does not enable the passion and theatre of the spoken word to shine through I reproduce my speech below. It might help a few of you get off to sleep tonight!!!!!
Let me start by saying how pleased I am to be standing before you today, speaking for the first time in this council. The welcome I have received from councillors and officers alike has been tremendous.
And of course I am pleased to speak on such an important matter as the Western Way Development.
I have received a number of officer briefings on this Final Business Case Update and Review and have read the papers a number of times to try and bring myself up to speed, as I know most of you in this chamber already are. I have gone over the numbers and satisfied myself this project is financially achievable with the outcomes our communities want.
Firstly, I must congratulate Councillor Griffiths and his team on the fantastic achievement of putting together a genuine sharing of the public realm with partners. I know, from personal experience, how hard this is to achieve. This council must be one of only a handful who have ever got anywhere near to achieving this. I never managed it.
Congratulations, you should be rightly proud of yourselves.
So what is this paper telling us?
It is telling us that the project continues to move forward despite covid and the uncertainty that has brought.
It is telling us that the project will continue to be managed in a prudent, cautious and flexible manner and that it can adapt to changing circumstances.
It is telling us that tax payers will be protected and that it will remain a cost neutral project over its lifetime.
This is a project that reflects the needs and aspirations of our communities.
It is a project that will deliver a fantastic asset for the benefit of the people of West Suffolk and will be the envy of the rest of the country.
The paper asks us to approve some sensible recommendations as laid out on page 32 of the papers.
These recommendations provide flexibility, reinforce the test that the leisure scheme must break even and seeks to lock in public sector partners as soon as possible. All very sensible.
And of course we are reminded and reassured that this model works with the recent opening of the Mildenhall hub.
Yes, times are tough, and we are facing some of the biggest challenges that any Council has ever faced. But what better return on our investment – a facility that pays for itself and banks health and prosperity for generations of West Suffolk communities.
And this is not a time to be caught in the headlights. This is not a time to lose our nerve. This is a time for leadership, a time to invest for economic success, a time to invest in our communities’ future.
I have no hesitation in supporting the recommendations and ask you all do the same.