Will Suffolk Retail Park be turned into housing?
PUBLISHED: 05:31 25 October 2019
An Ipswich retail park which had been eyed for nearly 90 homes looks set to have its future as a shopping destination safeguarded.
Fears had been raised for the future viability of Suffolk Retail Park off London Road, after Dunelm and Brantano closed the doors to their stores there in 2018.
The site was then listed for up to 88 homes in the new Ipswich local plan, leading to more speculation that the site could be revamped.
However, the final draft of the local plan has been published ahead of Tuesday's Ipswich Borough Council executive meeting, where the land has been removed as a site for housing.
It is understood that the arrival of Home Bargains and Food Warehouse alongside existing stores Argos, Next and The Range has helped safeguard its future.
If the final draft of the plan is approved by the executive, full council and a public consultation, it will remain listed as retail land until at least 2036.
Councillor Carole Jones, Labour portfolio holder for planning, said: "It's a really good site, and we removed it from the final draft because it is successful as a retail site again, and they are developing it, expanding it.
"I know from chatting to people living nearby that they love having it on their doorstep - they can walk there, they can get a variety of items and it's doing well.
"It's really nice to have good retail news at a time when every town is a changing landscape, and we really welcome the investment by the owners because that's really important."
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Changes to the final draft of the plan have included up to 547 fewer homes than the previous draft, including several key sites being removed - 148 homes on land at Cliff Road, Toller Road and Holywells Road; 337 homes in Helena Road/Patteson Road and 104 homes eyed on the former BT offices site in Bibb Way.
According to the council the 148 and 337 home sites were considered difficult to deliver, while the Bibb Way site has been split into three as one part already has planning permission approved.
Ms Jones said: "I feel quite positive about our probability to provide the homes the government require us to.
"We work with neighbouring local authorities so that if we find we are unable to find sites we can work with them."
However the opposition Conservative group raised concerns over the reduced numbers, and said that the Labour administration had failed to hit its housing targets consistently.
Group leader Ian Fisher said: "Housing shortages, especially affordable housing, is one of the biggest problems facing Ipswich at the current time and it is disappointing to read that IBC have re-classified several sites that were earmarked for housing developments with very few new sites being brought in to play. Tough decisions will need to be made over coming years and this document avoids most of the difficult questions that face us.
"We know that Ipswich is squeezed for space which makes it even more surprising that sites suitable for development into housing have been deleted form the future plans, especially the Suffolk Retail Park.
"With the town centre having a huge number of empty units it is staggering that we have re-allocated an area just outside of the centre for retail.
"This part of town suffers from horrendous traffic issues, made far worse by having large retail units.
"These units could quite easily be moved to the town centre to occupy some of the many empty properties helping to make the centre of town a depressing eyesore."
If the final draft of the plan is approved by the council's executive next week, it will then go to full council for approval with an anticipated final public consultation for eight weeks from November 22.