Baroness Scott: Suffolk is a living and breathing place

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The Independent Online

I came to live in Mid Suffolk 30 years ago in the town of Needham Market. My father and my first husband were in the RAF and what I immediately loved about the area was the sense of community because that is something I had not experienced before.

Here was a place where there would be names on village war memorials and the children and grandchildren of those individuals would still be living within those communities.

Mid Suffolk has never had that influx of second home-owners and holidaymakers which we have seen in other parts of the country. The countryside is not particularly wonderful but its built environment, in the shape of its villages and small towns, is truly lovely.

These villages are the centre of life with thriving communities. From local drama to rambling, you will find an interest group to suit your needs.

But it is not some kind of rural wonderland preserved in aspic. There is a strong pragmatism about progress, mixing the old with the new.

People recognise places have to move on but at the same time development needs to preserve the history of the area, ensuring we do not lose what makes it special.

My town of Needham Market underwent enormous growth in the 1970s and 1980s but if you walk up and down its high street today it is still recognisable from 19th-century photographs.

It makes me very proud to be associated with such a sense of locality and permanence. When I was offered a seat in the House of Lords, I was told I did not need to attach a place name to my title because I was the first Baroness Scott. But I wanted be Baroness Scott of Needham Market as a thank you to the town.

Of course, Mid Suffolk is a place that is not without its problems. Like many other rural communities, it has to deal with issues such as the availability of public transport and amenities. When I was first a councillor in my area, I represented 13 communities and villages. Now Needham Market is the only one that has shops.

It is also important that rural poverty is not forgotten. In urban areas, poverty affects whole housing estates but in the countryside the poor are more hidden away. It can be a single household and so the problem is more intractable than in cities like London.

But above all, Mid Suffolk is one of those places where people want to live rather than visit. In recent years, there has been a proliferation of local food production – there is now a wide range of farmers' markets, farm shops and local butchers. Our schools have always enjoyed a good reputation.

A few miles down the road on the Suffolk coast you have places such as Aldeburgh and Southwold where a large percentage of the properties sold are bought by people with London post codes.

Mid Suffolk just is not like that. We have never really had that weekending or holidaying scene. Instead, we have a place that people want to stay in and enjoy.

The author is the president of the Liberal Democrats