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Flats hope for Woodbridge

PUBLISHED: 23:07 05 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:08 03 March 2010

A BOATYARD owner could make a profit of nearly £2m if the redundant premises are sold to a developer for a controversial luxury housing scheme.

Jon Marks, owner of Whisstocks Boatyard, Woodbridge, bought the land for £270,000 when the boatyard was placed in receivership in the early 1990s.

A BOATYARD owner could make a profit of nearly £2m if the redundant premises are sold to a developer for a controversial luxury housing scheme.

Jon Marks, owner of Whisstocks Boatyard, Woodbridge, bought the land for £270,000 when the boatyard was placed in receivership in the early 1990s.

A public inquiry has been told that Mr Marks, managing director of Rockford Components Ltd, spent more than £50,000 on improving the yard and starting a boat repair business, and £15,000 in 1994 in obtaining planning permission for industrial or commercial redevelopment.

Mr Marks said he tried to sell the yard for £340,000 in 1995 without success and potential buyers told him the cost of investing in new commercial properties at Whisstocks would not be covered by the final property values or rental returns. Recent valuations priced the site at £150,000 and above for an industrial or commercial use.

But Nigel Barratt, Woodbridge's district councillor, told the inquiry at Suffolk Coastal District Council: "Woodbridge has seen one of the greater house price increases in the region in recent years. Local house prices in the centre currently range from figures in the region of £120,000 and upwards for a two-up-two-down terraced cottage directly on to the street with no off-street parking, to asking prices in excess of £1m for a larger period house.

"A figure of £350,000 was mentioned in the discussions concerning the site's commercial viability. The land value for use as residential is likely to be approaching or exceeding £2m."

Mr Barratt said: "A luxury residential development of this scope and design would irrevocably alter the historical context of Woodbridge. It would provide a jarring note, and introduce an incongruity that would damage its heritage."

He added a ''well established leisure and brewing group'' was interested in developing Whisstocks.

Rachel Bridges, a vice-president of Suffolk Preservation Society, said: "The owner however has made no attempt to market the site, for as a businessman he naturally and understandably seeks to maximise his profit.''

Michael Howard Homes, of Dedham, has appealed against the district council's refusal to give permission for 15 homes and five office units.

The company has argued there was surplus employment land in Woodbridge and Melton, and there was no need for Whisstocks to be retained for an industrial use. It said the scheme would involve the demolition of "eyesore" buildings and improve the area's appearance.

Neil Montgomery, the town's deputy mayor, said: "Residents do not want to see it (Woodbridge) changed into a modern, anodyne commuter town like so many places closer to London.

"They fear that if homes are built on the Whisstocks site, financial pressures will inevitably make it the first of many similar redevelopments and that eventually much of the riverside will be given over to private houses."

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