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Is £1.2m park a fair swap for seafront land?

PUBLISHED: 10:00 15 February 2013

A computer-generated image of what Felixstowe's south seafront will look like when complete.

A computer-generated image of what Felixstowe's south seafront will look like when complete.

Archant

DEVELOPMENT of the south seafront – from which the sale of homes being built will reap £31.5million for Bloor Homes – is still causing concern.

Cuts could rob people of their say

WOW, feathers are about to fly.

Suffolk Coastal is to cut its number of councillors – and that will mean some having to vote for the abolition of their own seats.

The council, which currently has 55 members, wants to run in a more business-like fashion.

Only members of the cabinet have any real power over decision making, but it must not be forgotten that those who make up the numbers have a vital role to play, too – interceding and investigating on behalf of their constituents, and representing their views on all sorts of issues.

Yes, the council is too big, but wielding the axe too heavily – leaving those left overwhelmed with responsibility, meetings, council business – could rob the community of a greater say and the help some folk need.

Of course, not all of that sum will be profit – it will cost several million to actually build the 127 homes.

The question the public want the answer to though is how much the community is getting from the handover of 17.5 acres of prime seafront land for properties selling for £245,000 and £249,000.

It appears the public will get £1.2m for a maritime-themed park – we are assured this will feature an “exciting range” of facilities for Felixstowe, though some of it will be car parking, which is not that exciting.

On top of this there will be £300,000 for the renovation of the Martello Tower to create a new tourist attraction – much more will have to be found from other sources to make such a project a reality – and £200,000 to be set aside for maintenance of the park.

If house prices rise, as they might when the second phase is built, then some of the extra profit Bloor will gain will also go to the council.

But is around £100,000 an acre for a seafront housing site a fair price or not? More than one developer has told me in the past that a deal is based on thirds – in this case that would be £10m each for the land, build and profit.

Obviously, it cannot always be as simple as that and on a flood plain, land which was once a beach, you would expect the build costs to be much higher than normal. Land costs also fluctuate from site to site.

Planning permission was granted previously for 158 homes and this was then cut by 31 a few months before work started – which surely must be one of the reasons why the cash for amenities has dropped.

Bloor though stand to make a very healthy profit from this deal whatever happens.

The main problem with the south seafront is the secrecy which has shrouded the site since councillors starting discussing it back in 1983. Hidden behind “commercial sensitivity”, very little has been revealed about how the deal with Bloor – or any of the firms which have been interested over the years – was brokered, and very little chance for the public to judge its success.

At the end of the day, a development has been decided – whether we think much of it or not – and it’s just whether we think the community is getting enough in return for giving away such a lot of leisure land.

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