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Hearing set to begin into future of Rendlesham theatre and sports centre site

The former Rendlesham sports centre building

The former Rendlesham sports centre building

A public hearing is set to begin today into the decision by district planners to reject a bid for housing in place of a former theatre and sports centre.

Developers lodged an appeal with the planning inspector after district councillors dismissed their proposal to knock down Rendlesham’s Angel Theatre and its sports centre and build 49 homes last August.

The decision reflected the recommendation of planning officers and was made in spite of a request from the applicant for a deferral to allow the submission of revised plans including a convenience store at the sports centre.

Boyer Planning made the appeal on behalf of Walnut Tree Properties on grounds that Suffolk Coastal had yet to determine the application.

Both buildings were bought from the Ministry of Defence in 1997 as part of the old air base. The theatre closed in 2006 and the sports centre has not been used since 2009.

The parish council included both buildings on its Neighbourhood Plan and made its own bid last March to keep the buildings.

It argues that more housing would mean the loss of key facilities and the removal of land for community use, and believes Rendlesham is a ‘key service centre’ as defined in the district councils’s Local Plan.

The parish council instead wants a retailer to move into the nearby community centre and transfer activities to the theatre, using income from leasing the centre to offset costs at the theatre or for additional services.

But consultants for the site’s owners claim the business plan is “fanciful”, and that the sports centre had made a loss every year but one during its obligation to stay open under previous planning permission for apartments in Avocet Mews.

In October, Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey sought approval for the Secretary of State to make the final decision on the application.

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