Warning over planning delay

FAILING to make a decision on a controversial £15 million-plus housing and leisure project could cost Felixstowe's councillors the chance to give their views.

FAILING to make a decision on a controversial £15 million-plus housing and leisure project could cost Felixstowe's councillors the chance to give their views.

That was the reaction of town mayor Doreen Savage, who fears that Suffolk Coastal could now decide the scheme – which has so far generated more than 180 protests – without waiting for the town's opinion.

"We had already been given special dispensation to give our views late because we needed time to organise a meeting in a venue big enough for the public to come along and hear the debate," said Mrs Savage.

"The district council has to decide an application within so many weeks and we do not know their timetable.

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"They may now decide to go ahead and decide this plan and not wait for us to have another meeting to consider any extra information we may receive – if that happens, then Felixstowe Town Council will have missed its chance to respond.

"That is the process within the planning laws and it will be a great shame if there is no recommendation from Felixstowe, where this scheme will be built."

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The town council adjourned its meeting on the scheme for the 17-acre south seafront because it did not have all the information it needed.

Councillors had not had access to a vital flood risk assessment, traffic study, report on the Martello Tower, and no environmental impact assessment – required for all major developments – had been produced.

If the council had approved the plan, it could have made a series of recommendations on changes or improvements.

But when the council will be able to arrange a further meeting is not known.

If Suffolk Coastal does not decide the application within the required time, then Bloor Homes could appeal and the issue go to a public inquiry – which the protesters would welcome.

But with Bloor being the district council's development partner, that would seem unlikely. Everything will hinge on how soon the council wants to proceed.

The campaigners are hoping the decision will be taken out of the council's hands and that GO-East, the regional government office, will call in the scheme and either hold an inquiry or make the decision.

Doreen Rayner, chairman of the West End of Felixstowe Resident's Association, said: "I think we must ask if it is ethically right that the council should decide a commercial plan which it has helped draw up and will benefit from because it has entered into a profit-sharing scheme.

"Someone else must be asked to decide this plan and I think that would raise public confidence."

The project will feature 209 homes including 21 for rent to people on the housing waiting list, gardens, play areas, restaurant, car parks, and amphitheatre, with the Martello Tower being turned into an art gallery.

n What do you think the project should feature? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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