Big deal for Ipswich

MILLIONS of pounds worth of investment and hundreds of jobs could soon be coming to the Ipswich area, thanks to the biggest commercial land sale for more than a decade.

MILLIONS of pounds worth of investment and hundreds of jobs could soon be coming to the Ipswich area, thanks to the biggest commercial land sale for more than a decade.

The Evening Star can today reveal that the last remaining chunk of undeveloped land at Ransomes Europark could soon be sold.

It has been confirmed that a mystery buyer - thought to be a property development and investment company - is likely to purchase the greenfield land.

The land, at a little over 53 acres, is around the size of 31 football pitches and is marked for business use.

Selina Flynn, marketing manager for current landowner Ransomes PLC, said: "We are negotiating a sale of some land.

"We have got 53 acres and we are in negotiations with a potential purchaser."

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According to Suffolk estate agents, contracts could be exchanged within weeks.

Peter Aldous, a partner at selling agents Strutton Parker, said contracts were likely to be exchanged in two or three weeks time.

Although he would not reveal the identity of the prospective purchaser - or the amount of money likely to change hands - he said it was "probably one of the biggest sales of commercial land for some considerable time".

Bidwells estate agents is advising the prospective purchaser.

John Spice, head of commercial at Bidwells Ipswich, said: "We are advising a prospective purchaser and the purchaser is hoping to exchange contracts fairly soon. It is imminent.

"They are buying land with existing outline planning consent for offices and industrial warehousing, but they want to make sure the land is capable of being developed in the way they want."

"There hasn't been a transaction of this size - in terms of the amount of acres - for more than a decade. "In at least 15 years there hasn't been a major land sale like this and this is arguably the prime commercial site in Ipswich.

"This will allow the town to provide modern office and warehouse accommodation."

Ipswich Borough Council, which confirmed the land is zoned for business use, has welcomed the prospective sale.

Simon Meecham, the borough council's economic development manager, said: "This is a huge vote of confidence in the Ipswich economy.

"It is an enormous land deal which has come on the back of the sale of the Landmark business park on the other side of town.

"We will work closely with the developers to ensure we get the best opportunities for local people and local businesses."

Mark Sargeantson, president of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the sale could result in opportunities for the town, especially if any future development was geared to owner-occupying businesses.

He said: "As far as I understand, the land is being bought by a property development and investment company.

"If they are able to put in the infrastructure needed, there is the opportunity for future owners and occupiers to acquire land for development.

"I think the demand from possible tenants is relatively modest compared with the demand from owner-occupiers, which is now really strong."

RANSOMES Europark first came to life more than a decade ago.

It kicked off when Ransomes, Sims and Jeffries applied for planning permission to extend the Ransomes Park Industrial Estate off Nacton Road.

Just two years later - in 1990 - exciting plans for a multi-million pound, 250-acre business park at Ransomes Industrial Park were unveiled.

Hopes were high that it would help bring the area into the 21st Century and create 8,000 to 9,000 jobs to boot.

Bob Dodsworth, the chief executive of Ransomes, speaking at the launch in May 1990, said: "Ransomes Europark will provide East Anglia with a first-class business park and we are delighted to have the full support of Ipswich Borough Council in the construction of the scheme."

The borough council chief executive, Jim Hehir, also welcomed the development.

Speaking at the time, he said: "With the single European Market in 1992, we believe Ipswich is in the ideal position. The timing of the construction of the Ransomes Europark could not be more opportune."

Ransomes PLC was then taken over by American multi-national Textron Inc in 1998 in an £80 million bid.

Ransomes PLC still makes professional ground care equipment under its trading name, Ransomes Jacobsen Ltd.

To this day, however, the whole Ransomes Europark site has never been developed.

But with the sale of the final chunk of undeveloped land looking imminent, the original plans for a 250-acre business park could soon be coming to fruition.

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