‘Why are we urbanising our beautiful rural village?’

Residents in Acton are unhappy with the proposed plan to tarmac a rural pathway ANL-160510-075729009
Residents in Acton are unhappy with the proposed plan to tarmac a rural pathway ANL-160510-075729009

A business owner who feels a pathway is being unnecessarily tarmacked has warned that the “creeping urbanisation” of South Suffolk’s rural villages could harm tourism.

The row has come after Suffolk county councillor for Acton, Colin Spence, agreed to fund the resurfacing of a byway at the top of Clay Hall Lane in Acton, which links the top of the road with the High Street.

Some residents, including Clay Hall House B&B owner Simon Oldfield, say the works are a waste of tax payers’ money and will lead to the urbanisation of an attractive rural path.

The plans were put in place after complaints were made about safety at the bottom of Clay Hall Lane, including concerns around speeding at the junction with Waldingfield Road, as there is no pathway for residents to walk to houses on the lane or on the larger Clay Hall Place estate.

Mr Spence said the path at the top could offer a safe alternative but requires resurfacing works.

But Mr Oldfield believes residents would still use the shorter road route to the centre of the village.

“If there is a problem with speeding deal with that. Don’t just redo a footpath at the other end,” he said.

“A great deal of public money could be expended on something that isn’t wanted or needed.”

Mr Oldfield says some of the path is on his land yet he was not consulted on the proposed changes. He added that the work was being done on the advice of one or two individuals but Mr Spence disagreed with this.

“These concerns have been expressed on behalf of a lot of people.

“It is wrong to say it is only expressed by one person.”

Mr Spence said the parish council was in support of the works.

“If concerns about something are raised and we offer an alternative than that’s all you can do as a county councillor.”

Mr Spence said that formal complaints surrounding the plans had been received by the county council and therefore he would not be using his locality budget to fund the works while this was being discussed.

He confirmed that this criticism largely surrounded the use of a hard surface on the pathway.

Mr Oldfield believes the surface, which he described as a gravel-like material, was already appropriate and that it was important the rural nature of the path was retained.

He said this, along with the ever-increasing development of villages in the area, could have an adverse impact on local tourism.

“Creeping urbanisation doesn’t do any good for growth in the tourism industry. We are in a pleasant rural environment. We have guests from all over the world coming to Acton who spend money in the local pubs and restaurants.

“If you keep chipping away at these rural locations our tourism growth could be stifled. You are just going to make people not want to come here.”

Mr Oldfield also questioned why residents had not been consulted, only finding out when one resident was asked for permission to fell a tree.