Borough denies plan to build new homes on 130-acre sugar beet site
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere has denied the authority has a secret plan to build thousands of new homes on the sugar beet site on the edge of the town.
The borough paid about £12 million for the site at the end of last year and has said it wants to turn it into an employment area – a site for businesses.
However the draft minutes of a meeting of the River Action Group earlier this week sparked confusion after a planning officer was recorded as saying the borough’s preference was for the land to be used for residential development.
The officer involved, and a colleague who was also present, insist that no such comment was made – the minute-taker had mis-heard what was said and it was being corrected before the next meeting.
Both officers say they had told the meeting that residential development was NOT an option for the former sugar beet site.
The site is in the Babergh district, just outside the borough boundary, and has been allocated for employment use by that council.
In 2007 the former owners of the site appealed against a decision by Babergh to refuse planning permission to build homes there – but the appeal was rejected by the then Secretary of State Hazel Blears.
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Changes to legislation, and the current government’s policy of encouraging housing development on “brownfield” sites, have led some to suggest that such an appeal could have a different outcome now.
Mr Ellesmere said that the council’s position minuted after the River Action Group meeting was totally inaccurate.
He said: “We bought this as employment land and we are drawing up a masterplan for the development of the site based on it being for businesses. We are not looking to build houses there.
“Several years ago the borough did make representations to Babergh that we felt this would be a suitable site for mixed development, including housing, but this is not the basis on which we bought the site and it is not what we are proposing for it.”
However Ipswich MP Ben Gummer is not convinced this was a simple mistake.
He said: “I suspect this was stating the council’s true position all along. It seems that on this occasion the officer has let the cat out of the bag.”