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Felixstowe: Luxury price tags for Bartlet Hospital flat conversions inflames row

PUBLISHED: 11:33 20 January 2014

The former Bartlet Hospital at Felixstowe.

The former Bartlet Hospital at Felixstowe.

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Luxury apartments in a converted hospital once bequeathed to the people of east Suffolk have gone on sale for up to £500,000 each.

Gipping Homes published property prices for the first wave of its Bartlet development in Felixstowe last week having converted the former convalescent care centre, which it bought from the NHS in early 2013.

The luxury price tag has provoked uproar among some who feel the community has been poorly compensated for the loss of an asset, which they claim was supposed to have belonged to it in perpetuity.

Health campaigner Michael Ninnmey felt the hospital should never have been sold for such little benefit.

“How could they sell such a valuable site for such a low sum of money without any benefit for the local community,” he said.

“It was very poorly managed by the primary care trust and Suffolk Coastal just rolled over.”

Felixstowe councillor Kimberly Williams was also “incensed” to learn the apartments were selling for such high prices while the developer had been exempted from making any contributions towards affordable housing in the district.

Peter Blemings, the company director, explained that affordable home contributions were determined to be inappropriate during discussions between the NHS and Suffolk Coastal, due to the costs associated with preserving the building.

“An iconic, prestigious building is being preserved and enhanced for the future – rather than continuing as a drain on the public purse,” he said.

Phil Hadwen, vice chairman of the Felixstowe Society, has applauded the developers for their approach.

“I’m very pleased with the sensitive way that the conservation has been dealt with and I’m delighted that another important building in Felixstowe has been saved,” he said.

Ms Williams, however, has criticised the district council for being too lenient with the developer and not enforcing its housing policy.

“We’ve got to draw the line somewhere and be more robust and rigorous in applying our affordable housing policy,” she said.

“It’s better developed rather than left to rack and ruin but the people of Felixstowe are getting nothing from this and it just goes to show that the district council did not think this through.”

Councillor Geoff Holdcroft, Suffolk Coastal’s cabinet member with responsibility for planning, stated “categorically” that authority was committed to providing extra housing including affordable housing in the district.

However, Mr Holdcroft also said that the policies need to be implemented in a “thought-out, considered fashion” based on their own merits.

“When the original application was agreed in 2013, there were no Section 106 or affordable housing requirements placed on the developers, as they successfully argued they were trying to preserve a landmark building,” he said.

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David Vincent

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EADT writer David Vincent has more than 40 years experience in Suffolk. He has explored the highways and byeways of East Anglia, meeting homeowners, developers and estate agents from Bury St Edmunds to Aldeburgh and Colchester to Diss.