Future in doubt as scheme rejected

DEVELOPERS were today weighing up the future of a £15 million-plus scheme to regenerate south Felixstowe after a shock decision by councillors to throw out the project.

DEVELOPERS were today weighing up the future of a £15 million-plus scheme to regenerate south Felixstowe after a shock decision by councillors to throw out the project.

Councillors slammed the scheme for its lack of "wow" and said in no way could it be described as "a major open-air activity park" to attract visitors – and claimed village playing fields had more to offer.

There was too much housing, serious concerns about traffic and the proposed amphitheatre, and worries over no guarantee of a new use or restoration for the Martello Tower supposed to be the 17-acre site's focal point.

Today the promoters of the project were "distraught" and described the decision as "a tragedy for Felixstowe".

Campaigners feared councillors would not be able to determine the scheme fairly because the authority is the landowner, co-developer with Bloor Homes, and stood to gain attractions and a share of the profits worth millions of pounds.

But fears faded as Suffolk Coastal's south area development control sub committee rejected the venture by six votes to three.

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Officers had recommended approval, but councillors identified several ways it breached their own policy and said they must stick to the Local Plan.

Councillor Barry Slater said: "If anyone should be serious about the Local Plan and committed to it, surely it should be us – not to waive it when it suits us, especially when it concerns a council development.

"We have a duty to be especially vigilant and beyond reproach, whiter than white, not one rule for the district council and a different rule for someone else."

Housing, according to the plan, would "only be acceptable" as a minor part of the site – and 209 homes clearly failed to meet that policy.

But Mr Slater said the scheme – gardens, play areas, wooden galleon, a café, restaurant and an amphitheatre – simply did "not measure up" to being described, as policy required, as "a major open-air activity park".

"Where are the recreation activities? I have looked and looked in vain – there are more recreation facilities on Middleton playing field that there are in this development," he said.

Councillor Mary Dixon said something dynamic and exciting was needed to justify a departure from policy and, despite the great deal of time and effort by council officers and cabinet, she could not find it in the proposals.

The houses were the dominant feature and the park reduced to a strip of land beside the sea wall, and the Martello Tower overlooked by homes four and five storeys high and hemmed in by play areas and an amphitheatre.

Some affordable housing would be acceptable but the homes proposed was "far, far too much".

She also voiced concerns over traffic congestion as highways chiefs had said on Sundays cars would be queued back onto the A14.

Others also had fears over parking as 730 spaces would be removed and replaced with 217 to cater for 50,000 visitors a year.

Councillor Dot Paddick said residents' views had been consistently ignored and the scheme was "marred by profit and greed".

Councillor Veronica Read said the only time she felt "wow" was when she saw the height of the housing blocks.

But councillors John Leggett and Dennis Gooch felt "in the absence of anything better", to tidy up the site and because no scheme would ever be perfect, it should go ahead.

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