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Woodbridge: Whisstocks regeneration project unviable unless holiday homes are axed

PUBLISHED: 10:03 17 July 2014

Impression of the project approved for Whisstocks boatyard, in Woodbridge. By Paul Weston, architect in collaboration with Charles Curry-Hyde.

Impression of the project approved for Whisstocks boatyard, in Woodbridge. By Paul Weston, architect in collaboration with Charles Curry-Hyde.

Paul Weston, architect in collaboration with Charles Curry-Hyde

Developers are set to be given the go-ahead to remove holiday homes from a multi-million pound riverside regeneration project despite objections and fears it could set a precedent for similar schemes.

Whisstocks Developments Ltd was originally given consent for 14 holiday homes at Woodbridge as part of a scheme including boat building facilities, retail space, a restaurant and heritage attractions.

Escalating costs, however, have left the scheme unviable – and the company told planners the project might not proceed unless the holiday homes could be permanent housing for open market sale.

Opponents though are worried that allowing permanent residences – against the local plan – will set a precedent which could threaten other land along the river.

It is feared the properties would become second home investments empty for much of the year.

Suffolk Coastal’s south area development control sub committee will discuss the issue on Tuesday and is recommended to approve the change and remove the holiday accommodation.

The scheme at Whisstocks boatyard, along with housing at nearby Nunn’s Mill, is set to revitalise the area around the historic Tide Mill.

A report to councillors says extra costs which have left the scheme unviable include changes imposed by the Environment Agency to flood defences which are now set to cost around £150,000 instead of an expected £30,000, and the need to pay full VAT on holiday homes.

Case officer Michaelle Coupe said a number of the uses already agreed for the site were contrary to the Development Plan, but because they sought to support the provision of a range of community benefits and retention of some boatbuilding, it had been considered an exception to policy could be justified.

If holiday lets were removed, the developers would be willing to gift the new public open space at the site to Woodbridge Town Council, along with the two community buildings.

She said: “It is considered that unrestricted housing in the form previously approved could be accepted as a departure from the Development Plan in this particular instance because it will ensure a continuing legacy of boatbuilding activity on the site, as well as providing other significant community benefits.

“It will result in a high quality mixed use development that is sustainable and contribute to the working character of the area, increase public access through the site, adding to the active and busy waterfront environment.

“It will also enhance the character and appearance of the site within a prominent location within the Conservation Area and which has been derelict for a number of years.”

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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.