Ipswich: Major homes vision hinges on �1m school land swap at academy site

IPSWICH: Hundreds of new homes could be built on the current site of Ipswich Academy – if the borough is successful in a �1million land-swap deal with the county.

The county council is to build new premises for the Ipswich Academy beside Gainsborough Sports Centre in Brazier’s Wood Road – it already owns some land there but needs to use five acres of land currently owned by the borough.

However, the authority’s initial �10,000 offer for the land has been rejected by Ipswich as unacceptable – with bosses claiming the site could be worth 50 times that amount.

The borough has proposed giving the county �950,000 and the five acres and taking over the existing Ipswich Academy site in Lindbergh Road, which could be redeveloped with homes and open spaces.

Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said the �10,000 offer was clearly only an opening to negotiations, but he hoped the development could lead to a major benefit for the town.

The Lindbergh Road site is about 16 acres – and the borough would like to see much of that developed for housing, although there are registered open spaces there which would have to be retained.

Mr Ellesmere could not say whether the homes would be all council-owned – or whether it would be a mixed development like Ravenswood.

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He said: “It is too early to say. But whatever is decided there would be a substantial element of affordable homes and the council would be looking to build them ourselves rather than involving a housing association.”

The borough is anxious to ensure the site is not left undeveloped for any length of time after Ipswich Academy moves to its new site in September 2013.

He said: “The last thing anyone wants is for that site to be left empty for years.

“The borough would be in a position to get on with redevelopment more quickly than anyone else.”

Any homes built would be family homes with gardens.

Mr Ellesmere said: “There is a shortage of those kind of homes in Ipswich at the moment. That is what we want to see, not more flats.”

Suffolk County Councillor with responsibility for children and young people Graham Newman said negotiations were continuing with the borough over the land for the new Ipswich Academy.

He said a land-swap was not a simple issue because government regulations said any current or former educational land that became vacant had to be offered first to the Department for Education before it could be disposed.

He said: “Before anything could happen to the current Ipswich Academy site, the DfE has to decide that it doesn’t need it for a free school or anything else – and that could take some time.”

n What do you think of the proposals? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or you can send an e-mail to starletters@archant.co.uk