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Sudbury: Prolog situation ‘impossible’ for councillors

06:00 16 November 2012

The site earmarked for Prolog

The site earmarked for Prolog's new HQ in Sudbury.

SUDBURY councillors feel they have been “duped” by the promise of 500 jobs into backing a development that could cause significant harm to the local landscape and listed buildings.

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In May, Babergh District Council gave market support firm Prolog the go-ahead for a £50million project that would see two huge warehouses built on land off Church Field Road.

As it was feared the large-scale buildings could have a significant impact on the area, Babergh’s planning committee only gave the development the green light because the company gave assurances it would create employment for 500 people. A list of stringent conditions was attached to the planning consent, which Prolog has subsequently sought to change.

At a meeting on Tuesday night, Sudbury town councillors said they been put in an “impossible situation” by Prolog. One of them, Jan Osborne said: “Planning permission for this scheme was granted as an exceptional circumstance because of the promise of so many new jobs and that is why we backed it. While we want people to know that Sudbury is open for business, this has put us in a position where we cannot back the new conditions because they take away any guarantees and go against what Babergh put in place as a safeguard.”

Her colleague Lesley Ford-Platt agreed, adding: “It seems that Prolog haven’t been entirely honest about their intentions here and it feels like we have been duped into supporting this proposal. So with regret, I think we have no choice but to refuse to back the application with the amended conditions.”

As well as the job promises, Prolog originally agreed to start on the development immediately because of the company’s “urgent need” for the new premises. To counter any significant harm, it was proposed Prolog should occupy the buildings for at least 10 years to prevent them from selling up and moving away.

In its revised conditions, the company only wants to be tied to the buildings for 18 months.

In a document sent to Sudbury councillors and to Babergh, Chilton Parish Council chairman Peter Clifford, said Prolog was also currently making some staff redundant, adding: “The redundancies were probably known to Prolog in advance of the May meeting but were not disclosed to Babergh councillors. The company has also failed to commit to an employment plan.”

Prolog director Peter Tyrer told the EADT the changes to the conditions were necessary to enable the company to secure a loan to build the development.

But he said nothing had changed in terms of Prolog’s commitment to the town. He added: “Some of the restrictions that were being set would have made the scheme unfundable and therefore commercially unviable. But we still stand by everything we have said and our continued commitment to building a development of this size in Sudbury should demonstrate that.”

Sudbury councillor Nigel Bennett said he feared after years in the planning process, the whole project could collapse and Prolog would take its business elsewhere. He added: “The town council is being asked for our view on the proposed changes to the conditions as a consultee - not the entire concept. I am worried that some of the rhetoric is very anti-Prolog and what could be a very good opportunity for the town. We need to let Babergh make the decision.”

A spokeswoman for the district authority confirmed they had received a revised list of conditions and were currently seeking legal advice on how to move forward with the matter. Babergh’s planning committee could be asked to consider the revised conditions and vote again, or a final decision could be made at public inquiry. Chilton Parish Council has already written to Babergh objecting to the proposed condition changes and Sudbury Town Council will now do the same.

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