Iain Irvine Retired Police Officer: On the Campaign trail

It was another Saturday and another visit to one of the lead Campaigners of KATCAG[1]. This week I had the opportunity to talk to Iain Irvine, whom many of you may have met as he has trudged the streets of Trimley St. Martin distributing information leaflets about Suffolk Coastal’s Local Plan. The Campaign had ‘Popped Up” in the morning at Roselea Farm Shop and although Iain had not been present, he was pleased to report the level of interest and engagement from the shoppers who had visited the shop. He was able to tell me more ‘Pop Ups’ were planned including one in Felixstowe on the 9th March, subject to approval. For me, it was an opportunity to see how the Campaign rolls on an everyday basis although this was not my reason for interviewing Iain; I wanted to know what motivated him to spend so much time working on the campaign. And thus, he began to tell me about himself and his story…

Iain is a Glaswegian and there is some hint of this in the spelling of his name but it is the only suggestion; his voice was made in southern England. Born in 1948, he left Glasgow when he was four. His father was a police officer who wished to advance his career and a move to southern England was the best way to achieve his goal.  There were many opportunities in Kent and many police houses to go with those opportunities and as a result, this was where the family found themselves. The nature of Police work was such that it involved moving from Police Station to Police Station on a regular basis. Consequently, Iain moved houses nine times and attended six primary schools, which was not necessarily conducive to an un-interrupted education. Gravesend, Hythe, Maidstone and Tonbridge are just some of the places where Iain has lived.  The longest period of time in one place was two years, the shortest six months and given the absence of a National Curriculum, there was no consistency of educational delivery.

Secondary education was a little more straightforward as many people over fifty may recall. It was either the local Grammar school or Secondary Modern. In terms of transport and communication, the tensions of Social Media didn’t exist of course, but good transport certainly did and for Iain, there was considerable commuting between home and school.  The road layout was not as sophisticated then and although work on the Dartford Tunnel went back to the Twenties it was not completed until 1963. Iain recalled the creation of the large A2 roundabout, which many of you may have used when travelling on the M25. This was familiar territory to him.

Iain attended secondary schools in Gravesend and Dartford commuting between Dartford and Gravesend then later between Swanley and Dartford. His first senior school was the Secondary Modern and had only been built in 1955. Known as the Downs School Dartford, it represented all that was bright and forward looking. The other school was Swanley Secondary Modern just four miles away.  Dartford is a place full of historic interest with possible connections to Wat Tyler, leader of ‘The Peasants Revolt’ in 1381 but this chronological information doesn’t really cut it for the average 15 year old boy, then or now. The majority of his social interaction at the time was sourced locally and as Iain talked about his principle interests, the feel of times returns to me.

unnamedDartford High Street from the Church Tower, Summer 2017

In comparison with the lives of teenagers today, the era seems filled with naivety. Playing and watching football predominated and he talked of how he would watch the Southern League at Dartford on Saturday afternoons. The distraction of central London wasn’t on his list of his youthful activities because at the time people didn’t even think of going there. Entertainment was locally based. Other aspects of teenage entertainment scene in the early Sixties included the local Youth Club, where he could observe regular fights between the local Mods and Sidcup Rockers on almost weekly basis. Interestingly, he commented on the absence of any weaponry as part of the tenor of the times; aggression was confined to fists and punches. I mentally compared this with the Trimley experience of Mods and Rockers during the same period, remembering how Felixstowe remained trouble free from these wild young people and their seaside invasions at Bank Holiday or any other time; this was always put down to having just one road in and out of the town. I think I should add none of this infers Iain had any part in such activities. As the son of a Police Officer, he trod the straight and narrow path of moral rectitude.  Other less combative entertainment was found when he went to the Disco. Everything was properly conducted during this period.  The dress code included a tie and your presence was tolerated if you were properly ‘suited and booted’.

After school Iain went to work for a Consultant Engineering Company. Travers Morgan. They were involved in constructing bridges such as Woolston Bridge or in Tower Blocks and new Towns. Their offices were on the corner of The Strand and Waterloo Bridge and Iain’s life as a commuter continued. He could remember the cost of his first monthly Season Ticket as approximately £24. A quick investigation of 2019 costs shows a season ticket for a similar journey to be £245.80, a 938% cost increase of the   mid Sixties price.  Iain was not an apprentice but he did have a very specific role he was responsible for working out where the reinforcement rods would be placed in the concrete building slabs. It was all very technical and after three years, in the manner of young people everywhere, he decided the time had come to look for a different type of work and one with possibly more fulfilling results. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the Police Force in 1969.

Iain deliberately elected not to join the Metropolitan Police but enrolled in the City of London Police. His patch was the Square Mile and it was about to become a centre of Terrorist interest when the IRA began their bombing campaign[i]. A bombing campaign, probably organised by the Angry Brigade started in 1971 with twelve attacks in that year alone. On the 8th March 1973 a car bomb went off outside The Old Bailey. This is believed to be the  IRA’s first major attack on mainland Britain since the start of The Troubles in 1969. The conflict had come to Iain’s patch and other bombs followed.  It was a time of high security and risk and Iain appears to have taken it all in his stride.  However, there were many non-terrorist related aspects to the work including two major Royal events,. In 1977 he was involved in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and the massive security work it entailed. The operation was of a covert nature and anyone present at the time would never have been aware of the complex Police presence. Officers lined the streets but the main activity was behind the scenes. This also applied to the Royal Wedding in 1981. Cameras were everywhere and there were many hours of CCTV footage but the invisible Police presence remained undetected.

Like his father he rose through the ranks and his work in the Police Force lasted more or less thirty years. The majority of his service was spent in the C.I.D. and Fraud Squad. However, he finished his career with five years as a Detective Inspector in the Serious Fraud Squad investigating complex cases about which he couldn’t say very much. Many were and are focused around ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes and if you are interested in the type of work covered by such teams you may have an overall flavour of the work by looking at The City of London Fraud Squad site.[i]   Iain finally retired from the police in 1999 and his working life evolved in a different direction. As we reached this part of the conversation, he contemplated the changes in the Police force since he first joined then:

“There have been huge changes and social media has introduced different elements. The ease of access to phone images is a double edged sword. Too many people taking photos at incidents and interrupting the emergency services, counterbalanced by the use of such images to help solve crimes.  These days, you would look for phone, CCTV and Dash Cam images. It’s now essential to grab these as soon as possible.”

Other changes also happened in the 1990s, notably moving house.  He talked about his life in Norfolk, expressing affection and appreciation of Brancaster and the North Norfolk coast. He had lived in Hevingham, near Aylsham until 1995 when his next move was to Bramford Tye.  His final move came in 2003 when he moved to Trimley St. Martin where he continues to live.

Work didn’t stop for Iain when he left the Police Force; he became a Security Adviser for a large Bank and stayed there for sixteen years. He covered an area which stretched from London to the Humber and was responsible for all the branches and administrative offices included in the area.  If any incidents occurred in these buildings, Iain was the man who supplied advice, support and comfort in the wake of such events. He was not a Counsellor but needed empathy to reduce anxiety and help people come to terms with events. The work demanded a caring approach and as each branch had individual characteristics, every situation demanded a personalised response. For Iain, no two days were ever the same.

Eventually, in 2015, Iain left his security work and retired once and for all. Once an opportunity arises for a leisurely review of you home, it can be quite a shock to seem how much attention it requires. This happened to a degree with Iain; he looked around his home and became conscious of the need for house maintenance. (I can identify with this sensation all to readily.) Consequently, his latent D-I-Y talents kicked in and he turned his hand to hanging wallpaper and other necessary maintenance skills, although he did admit he’s not so hot when it comes to electrical work. At the same time, he decided to do an Upholstery Course and to date has achieved two parts of a three part qualification as Master Upholsterer. With some empty stables outside he has the necessary space. He’s interest and enjoyment rests in changing the nature of pieces of furniture, either in a restorative or creative capacity. Some pieces have been done for the family and others may be seen in “Suffolk Living” in Felixstowe’s Orwell Road.  Generally speaking, things were advancing quite nicely but then… something happened last Summer.  The Draft Local Plan went to consultation and Stephen Wrinch of KATCAG launched The Campaign. Iain quickly became involved and so he remains to the current day, focusing all his attention on working to modify the planning proposals.

Iain expressed to me his perception and understanding of how the Public view the current situation with regard to the Local Plan.  His personal views may be summarised as follows:

“…there is a general feeling abroad that the Local Plan will be passed unaltered and that it is a ‘done deal’ and nothing can be done to alter the Plan.”  Iain refutes this stance.

Iain’s observation is that the alteration of land use at Innocence Farm generates more interest than the proposed housing issues, although both are equally concerning in different ways.

He also noted that Suffolk Coastal District Council[4], about to become part of a wider East Suffolk Council, are dismissing the feeling and objections of local people out of hand, although he recognises emotional responses have no value when it comes to Planning criteria 

He discussed an aspect of the official documentation whereby Trimley St. Martin is designated a ‘large village’ and that its housing allocation exceeds other ‘large villages’ in the district by 49%. Why is this necessary?

 Iain perceives the main drivers for the proposed plans as originating in the Port of Felixstowe and the future Sizewell C. He also pointed out there are many inconsistencies in the proposed developments.

The location of the proposed housing on Howlett Way, behind Reeve Lodge and that extant in Thurman’s Grove will put the village end of the Howlett Way Roundabout under intense pressure. In short he believes the housing need has been over stated and the capacity of the village to absorb such pressures is unrealistic.

Iain agreed most of us have a rather Nimby attitudes and clearly, the housing has to go somewhere. For him, Trimley St. Martin is a lovely place to live and yes, it does need to grow to a degree but he reiterated,

“the plans have not considered the impact on the residents.”

He thinks there needs to be greater balance and sympathetic placement of buildings rather than they are just plonked into the landscape or as Iain pithily said,

“We have been dumped upon!”

Less intrusive developments, and more respect the local environment seems equable towards everyone.  What is proposed will cause disruption, noise and require a separate access road to Innocence Farm. Or will we see a reduction in the number of lorries on the road, should the Port business not sustain its growth into the future? Over all, Iain works in a positive manner and thinks there is a compelling case for the Local Plan to be reviewed as he considers it wanting in the balance.  I asked if there was one word which might sum up what motivates his heavy involvement with KATCAG. He thought carefully for some time and replied,

“Fairness…”

and when this word is placed in the context of a career which sought to ensure justice was delivered to the  multifarious victims of crimes and misdemeanours, it seems highly appropriate.

Before I left, Iain allowed me into his studio to view a desk on which documents concealed more documents. He was scrutinising the Plan again before submitting his comments on the S.C.D.C website. Time was of the essence as he knew all too well, only a few days remained.  Iain reminded me of the importance of making appropriate comments myself online and if people are reading this on Friday 22nd February 2019, you may be aware the opportunity to comment on Sustainability[5] or Habitats sustainability[6]  will end at midnight on Monday 25th February.

Carpe Diem! Or, more colloquially if you will, seize the opportunity to add your voice.

 

IMG_4372 2Iain Irvine’s Study, February 2019.

 

If you have any comments or would like to be part of the Trimley St. Martin project, please contact me at:

trimleystmartinrecorder@gmail.com

LR   22/02/2019

[1] https://www.kirtontrimleycag.com

[2] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Irish-Republican-Army

[3] https://www.cityoflondon.police.uk/advice-and-support/fraud-and-economic-crime/fraudsquads/Pages/default.aspx

[4] https://www.eastsuffolk.gov.uk/yourcouncil/new-single-council/

[5] http://consult.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk/consult.ti/Final_Draft_SA/consultationHome

[6] http://consult.suffolkcoastal.gov.uk/consult.ti/Final_Draft_HRA/consultationHome

IMG_4366.jpeg

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