Why we need to find the balance between development and conservation in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 15:53 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:53 11 February 2020
For Suffolk to thrive we need roads, houses and jobs - but we also need to protect our beautiful county. Terry Hunt is former editor of the East Anglian Daily Times. Suffolk born and bred, he lives in Ipswich
One of the best aspects of retirement is having time to do things properly - and to enjoy them.
I absolutely loved my role as editor of the EADT, but it really was full-on and left me very little time for anything else.
I quickly learned that volunteering for anything extra meant I would end up rushing, being late, only doing a half job, and then feeling I was letting people down.
That all changed when I retired. I still keep myself busy, but I definitely have a lot more time, which means I can happily agree when people are kind enough to invite me to do things.
Recently, I was asked to be one of the judges in the Norfolk and Suffolk Tourism Awards. I was delighted to accept. The growth of the tourism industry in Suffolk has been one of the most exciting developments in our county in recent decades.
The awards evening is at the end of February, so I can't give away any secrets, but it really was an exhilarating process. It left me feeling very impressed.
My fellow judge, Anna Stevenson, and I spent three days visiting some wonderful places to stay, across the length and breadth of Suffolk - and Norfolk.
We were focusing on the self-catering category, and we quickly learned there is so much to celebrate. Without giving too much away, I can say we saw everything from cosy cottages, to imaginatively converted farm buildings, to some very unusual places to rest your head.
I suppose what struck me was the sheer breadth of choice, both in terms of the type of place to stay, and also whereabouts in the county.
Of course, Suffolk has its famous tourist destinations, like Aldeburgh and Southwold, which I'm absolutely certain will continue to be very popular and will always attract many, many visitors. Quite rightly so.
But, as our judging tour demonstrated, there are stunning places to stay which are miles away from the hot-spots. Some of our visits involved driving along farm tracks, or down winding little lanes, to find our stunning destination.
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In recent decades, tourism has become big business in Suffolk, creating large numbers of jobs in rural areas which previously would have been able to rely on agriculture for employment.
As the need for farmers to diversify has become more important, tourism has given them opportunities to convert old, disused and sometimes derelict farm buildings into luxury accommodation.
But there is no denying that the increasing importance of tourism brings challenges as well as rewards. Suffolk attracts visitors and holidaymakers because it is a beautiful county.
It has 60 miles of stunning coastline, beautiful villages, bustling towns, world-class culture, superb places to eat and drink, fantastic walks, globally renowned wildlife at Minsmere. I could go on.
But it is also a working county, and sometimes that represents a conflict. Our beautiful countryside is also a place where people live, and work.
So, they need houses in which to live, and they need businesses to offer employment. The county also needs good transport links, and that means roads.
I suppose the most high-profile example of this conundrum is Sizewell C. The project's supporters say it will create huge numbers of jobs, and provide a big boost to Suffolk's economy.
Its critics say it will have a damaging impact on world-famous Minsmere - next door - and will deter people from visiting that part of the coast.
Therein lies the dilemma. We need Suffolk's economy to thrive, we need jobs, we need houses, we need roads. But we also need to protect our beautiful county. It won't be easy, but it's vital we find the right balance.
For now, I'm looking forward to the tourism awards evening, and celebrating with our winners!