Will plans for 300 homes on Martlesham police HQ site be decided while lockdown continues?
PUBLISHED: 16:30 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:58 17 April 2020
Fears have been raised that the coronavirus lockdown measures could result in a planning application for hundreds of homes on the police headquarters site in Martlesham being approved with less public input.
Suffolk police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore submitted the planning application at the beginning of March which proposes to build 300 homes on the Suffolk Constabulary base off Portal Avenue.
MORE: Plans submitted for 300 homes on Martlesham police HQ site
While Mr Passmore said no plans are set in stone – planning permission is needed to ascertain the highest value for the site and whether it was financially better than carrying out repairs – the application’s journey through the planning system continues.
It has led to fears that the proposals could be decided while the country remains in lockdown, leaving concerned members of the community unable to have their say.
Stephen Denton, parish councillor at Martlesham Parish Council, said: “In the normal course of events we would have had a public meeting, and that’s not open to us because of the coronavirus.”
Other fears raised are that people will be too preoccupied by the coronavirus pandemic to respond to the consultation, and that the decision on the application may have to be made by an officer instead of a planning committee meeting where people would normally be able to attend in person.
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In recognition of the concerns, East Suffolk Council has extended the consultation period until April 27, but confirmed it was unable to say whether the application would need to be decided by a committee or officer.
A spokeswoman said: “The consultation has been extended until 27 April 2020, and as such, we’re not able to say how or when it will be decided yet as we are still in the consultation period and this will depend on a number of things, such as officer recommendation, consultation responses received within the prescribed consultation period and the official government guidelines in response to COVID-19 at the time.”
Fears have already been raised over the future of the site when it was allocated in the final draft of the local plan for housing and not employment use at the 11th hour last year, which is now on the desk of the planning inspector for a decision.
Mr Passmore said last year that the maintenance backlog for the police HQ sits at around £4million, which is why his office is investigating whether it is financially better to carry out those repairs or sell the land and establish a new base somewhere else in or around Ipswich.
MORE: Parish councils raise objections to Martlesham police HQ 300 homes plan
In order to achieve that, the PCC must achieve the highest possible value for the site, which can only be obtained by securing planning permission for housing.
A public consultation was held in 2018 where members of the public were able to see the early plans and submit their thoughts.
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