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‘We must work together’

Newmarket mayor John Berry ANL-150520-091346001
Newmarket mayor John Berry ANL-150520-091346001

The new mayor of Newmarket has said he is ready to make the town a ‘better place’ for residents and tourists alike.

Former deputy mayor John Berry was unanimously elected to the position at the annual town council meeting on Monday night.

He replaces outgoing mayor Rachel Hood, who has held the position for the past four years.

Although he said it was common practice for the deputy to step into the role, Cllr Berry said it was ‘an honour’ to be elected.

“It is an honour to be the mayor of any town, but a particular honour to be this town’s mayor,” he said.

“I hope I can make a positive contribution to make Newmarket a better place for everyone who lives and visits here.”

Of the current good relationship between Newmarket Town, Forest Heath District and Suffolk County councils, he said: “It is good to hear we are on the same side. It has not always been like that.

“Becoming new mayor when there is that spirit of co-operation makes it easier.”

He was pragmatic about the town council’s role, saying its decisions were ‘not a matter of life and death’.

“It is important for us as councillors to remember that although we don’t necessarily agree with each other, we are on the same side,” he said.

“We’re here to do what we can do to make the town a good place for its people, and I shall certainly be doing what I can towards that.”

Cllr Bill Saddler was unanimously voted in as deputy mayor.

Monday night was the first meeting for the 17 town councillors, seven of whom were newly elected on May 7.

The council agreed to co-opt a councillor for one vacant seat in Studlands, which is likely to happen at its next meeting in June.

This gathering was preceded by the Annual Town Meeting, during which a residents crowded into Memorial Hall to hear reports from town, district and county councillors and ask questions of them about the town.

Outgoing Mayor Cllr Hood spoke of a ‘dramatic and very positive improvement’ in the relationships between the councils.

“The three levels of local government have begun to work collaboratively and it has had great benefits for the town,” she said.

One issue raised was the future of Queensbury Lodge Stables. Labelled by one resident as an ‘eyesore’, concerns were also raised over district council policy which protects the town’s racing establishments from being redeveloped for other uses.

Steven Wood, Forest Heath District Council’s head of planning and roads, said discussions were progressing with the site’s owners to find a ‘viable proposition’.

“We want the owners to clear the site so we can gain access and establish a development brief for the area,” he said.

“We would like to ensure we do this in a collaborative way so both parties work to get a positive future from Queensbury Lodge.”

Cllr Hood praised Mr Wood as ‘an absolute revelation’ for Newmarket.

“Steven is well up to dealing with the challenge of Queensbury Lodge. It has been like this for more than 25 years and we’re very clear that something is now being done,” she said.

Mr Wood said establishing Newmarket’s significance within the horse racing community would be another priority, with the council commissioning a report to compile all the relevant ‘facts and figures’.

“It is a national sporting facility with international pedigree. We need to use the report to inform how we shape Newmarket and the industry which has made it famous,” he said.

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