Extra burdens mean ‘difficult’ times ahead

Villagers in Long Melford have been warned the parish council faces significant challenges as it takes on added responsibilities.

Council chairman Peter Turner said the authority would be having “very difficult” discussions over the next few months as it deals with managing the village’s public toilets as well as the country park and Rail Walk.

“We cannot afford to open the toilets on The Green, while the ones in Cordell Road and the country park are only open on a temporary basis,” he said.

“It is another thing we have had to pick up.”

The council took on the management of the public toilets last year after Babergh District Council withdrew funding for the facilities in a bid to cut costs.

They are subject to around £2,300 per year in business rates – a figure that makes up a large chunk of the costs of maintaining the loos.

Speaking during the council’s annual meeting last week, Mr Turner also told residents that the costs involved in managing the country park and Rail Walk – taken on from Suffolk County Council – was a struggle.

“With the help of Long Melford Open Spaces, they are now much better managed but many of the mature trees took a hammering from the storms,” said Mr Turner.

“With the benefit of hindsight, we should have negotiated a much higher financial contribution from the county council.”

Another problem facing the council is the need to replace 173 of the village’s street lights, many of which are up to 40 years old.

The lights have to be upgraded and will then incorporate the county council’s intelligent lighting system, which sees street lights switched off in the majority of areas at midnight – but it will not come cheap.

“We have to find around £220,000 to bring the lights, which the parish council is responsible for, up to standard before the county council will take responsibility for them,” said Mr Turner.

“We do not have the funds available to meet this cost.”