Public Meeting Notes – Highpoint Estate

On Saturday 26th February 2022 a public meeting was held at the Happy Days Childcare building part of the Highpoint Estate. There was a great turnout with around thirty of us there and a great deal of interest was shown. Many gave their apologies because they were working.

Thanks to Marion Rushbrook for organising the event, sorting out information boards and taking the notes.

I started by introducing everyone and as Matt Hancock was not available I read out a statement from him which was very supportive. I reminded everyone that Matt plays a huge part in these proceedings as he has access to the prisons minister and I don’t!! I will post Matt’s letter on a separate blog.

I then read an email from Phil Stead, the civil servant responsible for the prison upgrade program in which he says “The car park options are being re-assessed following the feedback received”. This is fantastic news. I suspect some subtle hints that conditions of when the car park can be used might have helped on this one!!! Shift the car park away from residents and life becomes easier for everyone.

I chose to break the meeting down into three parts. The planning application, the ring road and the estate roads. Each needs a different approach if we are to be successful.

I outlined the proposed planning application and reminded everyone that not all the documents are on the planning portal for security reasons. I also let everyone know that I support the proposal in principle as it provides significant employment opportunities, but only if the plans change. I guess some of the inmates might like to know where the drains are in case they wish to leave early. I explained that working with our planning officers, the MoJ land agents and others, right now is important. Influence at this stage is very valuable as once planning approval is granted out levers of power are reduced.

Cllr Peter Stevens raised the issue about planning design and access. More staff = more traffic and some of it on minor roads.

Cllr Bobby Bennett (County) was clear we need sight of a travel plan and survey from the prison. Where do staff travel from? She is also pursuing getting the speed limit reviewed on the A143. The road around the bends near Sterling House are dangerous.

A comment was raised about the lighting and in particular light pollution. This is a matter that we need to raise with the planning officer.

It was good to be able to let everyone know that the ring road is to be repaired and is not part of the planning application. Victoria Atkins MP, the Prison Minister has confirmed this in a letter to Matt Hancock and I was able to read this out. I am pleased she has the ambition to repair the road this financial year but I suspect that might be a stretch.

I raised the possibility of some development around the estate to help fund the repairs to the estate roads but there was little enthusiasm as the tree space was seen as a valuable asset for children to play on. I wonder if the green space could be found elsewhere or the development carried out in a different location. I was told that development might not produce sufficient funds anyway because of the low value of the houses (not surprising with the roads in the their current state). I will give this more thought.

One of the issues with repairing the roads is the state of the drains. They were taken over by Anglia Water in 1995 but we need to find out on what basis.

Residents raised the issue of vehicles parking on double yellow lines but unfortunately as the roads are not public and have no Traffic Regulation Orders governing them the yellow lines are meaningless.

In the past the estate has had a residents association and I believe its time to start it up again to fight your corner. It would also be a useful organisation to help maintain the public realm. Powers still exist for the prison to collect funds to be used for this sort of things. I am aware that the prison is sitting on £5k set aside for this purpose. Marion is going to look into seeing what is required to set this up.

To me success looks like: Ring road repaired (I have a promise it will be), The proposed East Car Park to be relocated (its under review so fingers crossed) and the big one, the repair of the estate roads (pressure being applied and the minister if engaged).

One kind soul has agreed to share with me her full history of 32 years on the estate with al the legal ins and outs. This might be very useful.

A full set of minutes were taken by Marion which we will use to chase the issues up. I will publish them on the blog.

I floated the idea of a little placard waving, if necessary and was delighted with half a dozen volunteers. We are on standby for this.

I have further meeting set up to push this forward.

One comment

  1. Hi Nick, it was nice to meet you on Saturday, I really hope the info you get from one of the residents is useful, I believe the more successful you are in getting things fixed you will get more residents involved , though most of us don’t hold out much hope as we have been here several times and got no were, the prison service are bullies they know they have let thee residents down but don’t care, they also know that things take so long to do that governments change mp’s change jobs then we have to start all over again, which is why I think some of us are keen for the press and TV to get involved, I honestly think nothing will get done till the prison is shamed into fixing the roads, we were also told in the past that our estate roads are officially the worst in the country.


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