Suffolk town revamp set to go ahead

HIGHLY-controversial proposals to redevelop the headquarters of one Suffolk's best-known businesses in the heart of an historic town today look set to go ahead.

HIGHLY-controversial proposals to redevelop the headquarters of one Suffolk's best-known businesses in the heart of an historic town today look set to go ahead.

Planners are recommending approval for Notcutts Ltd's £5 million plan for its Woodbridge site – a project which has split the riverside town and generated more than 850 letters and comments.

The scheme would double the size of the garden centre in Ipswich Road, provide a new medical centre and HQ for the primary care trust, 70 sheltered homes for the elderly, and 28 flats, one-third of them affordable housing.

Suffolk Coastal council has received petitions of 624 signatures and 145 letters supporting the scheme and 84 letters against.

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In a report to councillors, planning officers accept the project is against policy but said there would be some significant benefits from the expanded and reinvigorated garden centre, medical centre, affordable housing and potential to bring into public ownership the green frontage of Ipswich Road.

It said: "There is also potential to improve access to the garden centre and to improve traffic calming and traffic safety on what is acknowledged to be a busy and fast downhill stretch of the Ipswich Road."

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Opposition has come from Woodbridge Town Council, the chamber of trade, Woodbridge Society and Suffolk Preservation Society.

Supporters say the needs of 10,000 patients of the Framfield House Surgery "must justify an exception to the Local Plan rather than risk the loss of a substantial portion of the medical services in the town when the present premises become unworkable and probably unlawful".

Those in favour also claim the scheme will improve traffic safety on Ipswich Road, plus a better garden centre with 22 new jobs, and enhance the whole area.

But opponents have outlined more than 40 reasons for refusal – including concerns over the number of homes, traffic fears, inadequate parking, not enough consultation, loss of trees and habitat, and the impact on the viability of the town centre.

If the development control sub committee agrees the scheme on December 9, councillors will probably authorise officers to negotiate changes to roads, car parks, housing layouts and possibly even a reduction in homes.

A host of conditions suggested by officers also includes control over the amount of the garden centre allowed to sell non-garden products, to offset fears the site could be sold on to a major supermarket company later.

The new garden centre will be 3,014 sq m with 164 car parking spaces and 33 over-spill ones, plus 58 spaces for the offices and associated service yard.

The medical centre would be built in two phases – the first for the practice and the second for community care facilities and the Suffolk Coastal PCT to relocate from its Felixstowe premises.

n. Do you think the development will enhance or ruin the area? Write to us at Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email

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