Sudbury: Jobs promise convinced council to approve plans for £50m warehouse development
The potential for up to 500 new jobs in west Suffolk was enough to persuade councillors to back a £50million warehousing development yesterday.
This was despite expert opinion that the two large-scale buildings would cause “considerable harm” to the nearby listed buildings – and no guarantee about the number of jobs that will be created.
After a heated meeting yesterday lasting more than two hours, Babergh District Council’s planning committee gave Sudbury-based market support firm Prolog the go-ahead for its proposed development on industrial land off Church Field Road, in Chilton.
The project was initially approved in May 2012, but because of concerns raised by heritage organisations about the potential impact of the buildings, a list of conditions was attached to planning consent.
The development stalled and the associated jobs were left in doubt after the company and the district authority could not agree on the restrictions, which Prolog said would make the project “unviable”.
The firm, which already employs around 400 people at its current premises in Milner Road, submitted a list of revised conditions including that it should be allowed up to seven years to build the warehouses and only be required to occupy the buildings for 18 months after completion.
At the meeting, Chilton Parish Council chairman Peter Clifford urged councillors to refuse the application with the new provisos. He said: “Given the current ‘take it or leave it’ conditions, largely written by the applicants themselves, we believe the likely creation of 500 jobs in addition to the existing workforce to be a complete fantasy.
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“These conditions have been so watered down in favour of the applicant and their financiers, that Chilton Parish Council feels this exercise is based purely on a speculative attempt to gain planning permission on a valuable heritage site.”
Lady Valerie Hart, who owns the nearby Grade II*-listed Chilton Hall, which is in view of the proposed buildings, told the council it could face long and costly legal proceedings if it backed the scheme.
This is becuase the harm to buildings including Grade I-listed St Mary’s Church could not be proven to be outweighed by economic benefit, as there was “no guarantee of jobs” or of Prolog’s commitment to Sudbury, Lady Hart said.
Another councillor, Frank Lawrenson, criticised the company for not talking to the community about its plans.
But the company’s chairman Robert Audley said they had just won a £28million contract that would create 128 jobs at Prolog’s east Midlands facility. He talked about staff who had worked for the company for more than a decade and added: “All we want is the opportunity to create more jobs here in Sudbury.”
Despite members describing it as a “very difficult decision” they voted 12/2 in favour of the application.
After the meeting, Mr Audley told the EADT: “We have sponsored the Babergh community awards for years so I don’t see how they (the protestors) can say we are not committed to the local community.
“We are very pleased with the decision but won’t be cracking the champagne open just yet. We have been threatened with a judicial review so we will have to see what happens with that.”