Sugar beet factory purchase by Ipswich Council comes under fire – but inquiries take off

David Ellesmere at the sugar beet site in Sproughton

David Ellesmere at the sugar beet site in Sproughton - Credit: Archant

Ipswich council is believed to have spent about £10 million on buying the former sugar beet factory site at Sproughton.

And it is thought it could cost another £8 million to complete necessary infrastructure work on the site – clearing contamination, building roads and installing utilities.

However borough leader David Ellesmere said there has been a great deal of interest in the beet factory site since its purchase was revealed last week.

The site is in Babergh District, just outside the borough, but has good links to the A14 and there is the potential of building a rail link into the main line.

Mr Ellesmere said: “I’ve had phone calls from businesses keen to talk about moving to the site – they started coming in on the day the article was published.”

The cost of the purchase remains confidential, but within the property community of Ipswich it is understood that the borough paid about £10 million for the site.

Mr Ellesmere said that the fact the borough was buying the site meant it did not need to be all developed at once.

He said: “If a private developer tries to do something with the site, they need a large ‘anchor tenant’ before any infrastructure work can be carried out.

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“We can go ahead and do the infrastructure work on part of the site which makes that attractive for tenants who want to move straight in.”

The council’s purchase of the beet factory site continues to come under attack from opposition Conservative councillors.

Opposition leader Nadia Cenci felt the borough had paid too much for the site – and there was no guarantee that the authority, and council taxpayers, would get their money back.

Conservatives believe that with the upturn in the economy, the site would soon have been attractive to a private sector developer.

She said: “This is going to cost a great deal of money servicing the debt to purchase and develop the site and while we may get that back there is no guarantee of that.”

There is scepticism about the Labour administration’s claim that it acted to ensure Babergh Council does not give permission for the construction of a retail park which could threaten the town centre.

Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said that in the current economic climate there was no demand for new retail parks.

And Ms Cenci said: “The kind of retailers who might go there would not be interested in the town centre anyway, and I don’t think that would be a threat – but there’s no real prospect of that happening anyway.”