Suffolk: Europe asked for help with delayed building work on Ipswich’s Waterfront

IPSWICH: Europe is to be asked to step in to ease strict competition laws which are being blamed for delaying work on the Waterfront, it emerged today.

Administrators trying to find new owners for the Regatta Quay development – including the giant “wine rack” skeleton – have been unable to lower the price enough to attract buyers.

That is because the initial developer, City Living, is understood to have got loans on a valuation that is much higher than is currently achievable.

City Living went into administration owing huge sums of money to the Anglo Irish Bank – one of the institutions at the heart of the Irish banking crisis.

Its assets have now been transferred to a new organisation, the National Asset Management Authority (NAMA) – the so-called Irish “toxic bank” which is backed by that country’s government.

It is charged with disposing of assets if possible. However European competition law says no public body can sell off assets for less than half their original value.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said he had been told by Regatta Quay administrators Grant Thornton that the company had originally been given the loan on the basis that the development would be worth �140 a square foot. That meant they were unable to sell anything for less than �70 a square foot which was higher than the market would sustain at this time.

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Mr Gummer said: “I understand at the height of the boom the best figure achieved was �127 a square foot and to expect to get �70 a square foot now is unrealistic.”

He brought East of England Tory MEP Vicky Ford to the Waterfront to see the problem.

Before she became an MEP Mrs Ford worked in the banking industry and said she hoped to be able to use her experience and her contacts in Brussels to find a solution.

Mr Gummer said this was not a problem unique to Ipswich: “I understand there are similar problems in a number of other areas like Ipswich – particularly in Ealing and in the Medway area of Kent.”

Mrs Ford said there was clearly a need to take action.

“It is a shame to see this,” she said, looking at the skeleton.

“Much of the Waterfront is quite spectacular but these areas do stick out.

“I would like to do whatever I can to get things moving on this.”

n Are you a Waterfront resident? Have you been affected by the economic downturn? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail