Town councillor resigns after ‘threats and abuse’ following pedestrianisation plans

PUBLISHED: 15:05 07 August 2020 | UPDATED: 11:11 08 August 2020

Caroline Topping. Picture: Nick Butcher

Caroline Topping. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

A long-serving town councillor has resigned after “harassment, threats and abuse” following a controversial plan to pedestrianise the town centre.

Council in Beccles have closed off part of the town centre causing problems for business owners.
: Sonya Duncan
(C) Archant 2020Council in Beccles have closed off part of the town centre causing problems for business owners. : Sonya Duncan (C) Archant 2020

Since becoming a Beccles Town Councillor in 2007, Caroline Topping went on to serve the town as mayor in two consecutive years.

Yet councillors have faced severe criticism following the introduction of a temporary traffic regulation order which banned cars from New Market to help shoppers to socially distance while using town centre businesses.

In a statement, Mrs Topping said: “It is a shame I have now resigned at such a low point.

“I am no longer able to defend the town I have loved and have resigned from all the committees, associations and charitable events that I have supported as a Beccles Town Councillor because I fear reprisals may be made against them by a small minority.

Caroline Topping. Picture: Conor MatchettCaroline Topping. Picture: Conor Matchett

“Over the last four weeks I have received harassment, threats and abuse from a small minority and no longer feel safe in my community.

“I was asked to attend an informal meeting just over 13 years ago in a small room above a funeral directors and I said I am not volunteering for anything, my husband will kill me.

“I was already a school governor, chairman of the Friends of St Benets PTA and had been one of the organisers of the Beccles Duck Race which raised £5,000 for the St Benets playground equipment.

“When I first joined the council I said I would do it for four years and had no intentions of becoming mayor. Famous last words.

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“I carried out just over 11 years as a town councillor and was the proudest person on the planet when I was made mayor in 2013.

“After carrying out two exhausting consecutive years as mayor and carrying out hundreds of hours of duties, meetings and visits, I have had the most fantastic time and met the most wonderful and generous people.

“Beccles is, in general, a community of the most caring and giving people and that is why I have been proud to serve and fight for it for so long.

“We were the envy of other towns across the district and people would come from Ipswich and say ‘I have heard of Beccles, you are doing great things.

“One person a couple of years ago said Beccles was a ‘beacon of light across Waveney.”

After a brief break from the council in 2015, when she became a district councillor, Mrs Topping returned to the town council 18 months later, most recently serving as chair of the council’s assets and environment committee.

She has also been heavily involved in the establishment of a community support network, one of the first to be set up in the region to help people through the coronavirus lockdown.

Mrs Topping will remain as a green party councillor on East Suffolk Council for Beccles and Worlingham.

Deputy mayor Christine Wheeler said: “This is a very sad time for the council in that we have lost such an enthusiastic and competent councillor who has worked tirelessly for her community for very many years.

“While she will still remain as a Beccles district councillor, her presence on Beccles Town Council will be very much missed.”

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