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Calls for independent review into Woodbridge ‘cheese wedges’ housing proposals

PUBLISHED: 17:57 30 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:57 30 August 2018

Suffolk Coastal's former headquarters at Melton Hill, Woodbridge, is where the site for the new homes Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk Coastal's former headquarters at Melton Hill, Woodbridge, is where the site for the new homes Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Some 45 public objections have been lodged about Active Urban Woodbridge Ltd’s (AUWL) recently revised application to build 100 homes at Suffolk Coastal District Council’s old offices in Melton Hill – with one supporting comment.

The developers are seeking to reduce the number of affordable homes from 32 to 15 by claiming Vacant Building Credit (VBC) – a scheme introduced nationally to promote brownfield development.

While AUWL has said the reduction in affordable homes was necessary due to lack of interest from registered social landlords and the “challenging viability of the scheme”, people living nearby have criticised the application.

The scheme has proved controversial ever since AUWL won the council contract to redevelop the site in 2016, with some likening its design unfavourable to “cheese wedges”.

The delays that followed the application’s provisional approval in October last year led to further criticisms over its viability.

Michael Holland, who lives near to the proposed site, has called for an independent review into the handling of the project.

Mr Holland said that while AUWL was the preferred bidder in 2016, the subsequent delays meant the council’s financial calculations must now show a “significant adverse variance” due to the delays in completing the sale, which is dependent on planning approval, as well as the costs in maintaining the site.

In a letter to this newspaper, Mr Holland also said the council would be “embarrassed” if it failed to secure affordable housing on the sale of its own land, and questioned why further community consultation had not been held over design revisions.

Further objections, lodged by John Saggers, questioned the legitimacy of AUWL’s claim for VBC - which he said failed to comply - and called for a new round of consultation events.

AUWG said VBC had been introduced to give developers a financial credit for the amount of vacant building floorspace brought back into use.

“It looks forward to progressing the application in the coming weeks,” the company added.

SCDC said the application was to consultation and people could comment by visiting its website.

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