A slew of public objections have been submitted in relation to Active Urban Woodbridge Ltd’s (AUWL) revised planning application for the building of 100 new homes at the former site of Suffolk Coastal District Council’s offices. The developer intends to reduce the number of affordable homes within the development from 32 to just 15, and this move has been met with objections from Woodbridge Town Council, Melton Parish Council and over 140 local residents.
Following a review of how they might improve the facilities and environment for staff working at their 1960s-built office building, Suffolk Coastal District Council relocated to new £3.9 million premises in nearby Riduna Park in 2016, completing the move by the end of the year. Working with property consultants Concertus, the council agreed to the sale of their 3.23-acre site for future residential development.
Even prior to the recent revision of AUWL’s plans, the proposed development has not been without controversy. There were public objections and protests when the council provisionally approved the original plans in October last year, which only passed on a majority vote of nine to four. The design of the development drew particular criticism, with one objector referring to the proposed housing estate blocks as a “monstrous carbuncle” and others describing the buildings as “cheese wedges”. Other issues raised at the time included complaints of insufficient parking spaces, and the planned felling of trees.
More recently, local residents and stakeholders have been concerned at the apparent lack of progress by the developers, with some critics saying the project had stalled. There have been significant revisions to the original plans, too. While the earlier proposal was to retain two older buildings on the site and build 68 new homes, later plans called for the existing buildings to be removed and 100 new homes built.
For many, however, a key sticking point has been the proposed reduction in the number of affordable homes. The provision of affordable housing was a condition of the original provisional planning approval; however, an agreement between the developer and social housing provider Flagship Homes was dissolved last August, and AUWL now wants to include just 15 affordable homes in the 100-home development, rather than the originally proposed 32. They want to do so by claiming Vacant Building Credit (VBC), a nationwide scheme intended to promote brownfield development.
Crucially, sale of the Melton Hill site will not go ahead until planning permission has been approved, and some critics are calling for the currently proposed sale to be cancelled and the tender process restarted from scratch. Either way, the future development of the site is clearly a topic of some disagreement among local residents and stakeholders. Residents are encouraged to respond to the current planning application before the council makes a further decision on the development; this can be done online until Thursday 20th September.