Anger at factory site plan

OUTRAGED campaigners fighting plans to build business units on a redundant factory site last night branded a decision to give the proposal the go ahead a “travesty for democracy”.

Craig Robinson

OUTRAGED campaigners fighting plans to build business units on a redundant factory site last night branded a decision to give the proposal the go ahead a “travesty for democracy”.

There were angry scenes at Suffolk Coastal District Council's offices in Woodbridge yesterday when the scheme for the old Girdlestones pump suppliers' engineering works in Station Road, Melton, was given the green light.

Councillors on the South Area Development Sub-Control Committee were heckled by angry members of the public after they made the decision and campaigners are now seeking legal advice in a bid to force a judicial review.

There has been strong opposition to Riduna Holdings Ltd's plans to create a two-storey scheme featuring offices, workshops, a cafe, a shop and 275 car parking spaces.

The development had already been revised from four storeys and had been reduced in size from 10,456 to just over 8,626 square metres.

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But the local community together with parish, district and county councillors felt the proposal was completely wrong for a rural area and would be a gross over development, while also leading to an unacceptable increase in traffic.

A number of representatives vehemently urged the committee to take note of people's concerns and reject the scheme, which campaigners would like to have seen linked with a neighbouring site.

Despite the strong opposition the development was given the go ahead subject to 21 conditions - although it was not a unanimous vote in favour.

After the meeting, John Cole, chairman of Girdlestone Action Group, branded the decision “utterly disgraceful”. “The councillors had every opportunity to reject it - and clearly some of them wanted to - but they had no guts,” he said.

Geof Butterwick, chairman of the parish council, added: “They have forgotten that they were elected to represent the people. It is an absolute travesty for democracy.”

Chris Dawson, on behalf of Riduna Holdings Ltd, said the development would be environmentally friendly, provide jobs for the local community and that it was not possible to combine with a neighbouring site because it was too vulnerable to flooding. A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal District Council said they recognised the concerns of the local community but had to make decisions solely on justifiable planning grounds.

“Its previous history makes this site right for a development of this type, the County Council's highways experts found no reason to object to the amount of extra traffic that it will cause, and the final plans are of a scale which should sit relatively sympathetically with its neighbours,” he said.

He added that the conditions - which include upgrading the nearby level crossing, traffic calming in Station Road, additional landscaping and approval of building materials - would also help to control any detrimental impacts of the scheme.

“For those reasons, there were no reasonable planning grounds to refuse this application,” he said.