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Rendlesham: Theatre and sports centre bid appealed

PUBLISHED: 08:55 06 August 2014

Sports centre: Residents in Rendlesham want to save two buildings

Sports centre: Residents in Rendlesham want to save two buildings

A bid to demolish a former theatre and sports centre and replace them with housing is back on the table after developers lodged an appeal with the planning inspector.

Last August, planning officers asked district councillors to dismiss a proposal to knock down Rendlesham’s Angel Theatre and its sports centre and build 49 homes.

Before going in front of a committee, the applicant asked for the decision to be deferred for revised plans to include a convenience store at the sports centre.

On behalf of Walnut Tree Properties, Boyer Planning is now appealing to the government inspector on grounds that Suffolk Coastal has 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 argues that development 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. It has included both buildings on its Neighbourhood Plan and made its own bid last March to keep the buildings.

Greg Vincent, consultant for the site’s owners, said: “The parish council wants to take over the buildings and run them as a profitable enterprise. It is talking about being a district centre with a catchment area of 10-15 miles. Its business plan is fanciful and it will not budge from its position. Meanwhile, the buildings continue to rot.

“We want to take away two unpleasant buildings. If the Co-op wants to go ahead, an application will be made for a store at the sports centre site with apartments above the store. The rest of the site will be for additional housing.

“Under previous planning permission for apartments in Avocet Mews, the obligation was to keep the sports centre open for three years. The owner kept it open until 2009, losing money every year but one, when revenue matched outgoings. They went over and above their obligation.”

Rendlesham’s finalised Neighbourhood Plan is due to be submitted on August 11 and will be a ‘material consideration’ at the appeal – representations for which are to be made by August 27.

The parish council wants the Co-op to move into the existing community centre, move activities to the theatre, and using income from leasing the centre to offset costs at the theatre or for additional services.

Parish clerk Heather Heelis said: “The Neighbourhood Plan is a community-based document on which we have spent two and a half years consulting residents on how they want their village to be up to 2027.

“We believe it contains the aspirations of the community. We have applied for the site to be allocated a district centre for retail, education, leisure and community, to serve the village and the wider area.”

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