Garage to houses scheme withdrawn

HOPES of converting a redundant village garage into houses have been dashed at the last minute.Graham Laurence, owner of the site formerly used for Marshall's garage, High Street, Wickham Market, near Woodbridge, withdrew his controversial scheme just before it was due to be discussed by Suffolk Coastal District Council.

HOPES of converting a redundant village garage into houses have been dashed at the last minute.

Graham Laurence, owner of the site formerly used for Marshall's garage, High Street, Wickham Market, near Woodbridge, withdrew his controversial scheme just before it was due to be discussed by Suffolk Coastal District Council.

A reason for the withdrawal was not given by the development control sub committee, and villagers will have to wait and see if an alternative plan is produced. Planning officers had recommended refusal of the scheme.

The garage employed 16 people before its closure in April last year and the planning agents told the council the premises had been ''actively and widely marketed'' but no firm offers had been received. However, residential developers had expressed interest in the site.


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But the parish council complained that the garage and petrol station had been ''sorely missed'' since the closure. The village had had a garage since the 1920's and it had expanded to become a large depot for new cars awaiting distribution to other outlets.

The parish asked for an employment use to be retained and said: ''Wickham Market acts as a service centre for many of the surrounding parishes in the Rural Priority Area and has more recently been accorded Market Town's Initiative status. A core target of this initiative is the regeneration of a community and the retention of key facilities to serve its rural hinterland.

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''Although the site has apparently been marketed, it is felt that this has not been approached in an inventive way. The site is large and probably outside the scope of local firms financially. However, were it to be marketed for several separate uses, it might achieve more success, e.g. petrol station/car repairs/car sales/base for taxi service.''

The parish added it wanted to discuss the possibility of using the western part of the site for community facilities.

A few residents backed those views and the Royal British Legion Women's Section said a resource and youth centre would be preferable to luxury housing.

The Suffolk Pensioners' Association asked that the land should be conditionally reserved for houses and bungalows for the elderly and first time buyers.

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