Council considers challenge over redevelopment halt

MID Suffolk District Council is investigating whether it can launch a challenge against a government decision that has halted major redevelopment plans for Stowmarket.

The council wants to regenerate part of Ipswich Street in a bid to cater for the town’s growing population and offer more modern retail space, but a planned compulsory purchase order for the United Reformed Church and several other adjacent properties was rejected by the Secretary of State last week. The decision followed a public inquiry – that was actually held inside the church – earlier this year and David Benham, the council’s regeneration manager, said he was “gutted” by the news and was investigating whether the council could launch an appeal.

He said: “The point is that it’s the linchpin of all the regeneration in the town. It’s a critical piece of the jigsaw and we can’t understand the reasoning behind it [the decision].

“We are pouring over the inspector’s report. Most of it reads like they are in favour of it. There are one or two minor points that they are not convinced that it’s in the public interest.

“What we are doing is we are trying to find out where we stand in terms of a challenge.

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“It’s taken five months to get the decision and it’s going to take some time to digest this and see what the report is saying.”

Mr Benham said he was still convinced that the proposal was the best way forward for the town and the “vast majority” of people in the town agreed with him.

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He revealed that ongoing talks with the church over the plans for a new site – the stalemate that originally led to the public inquiry – had progressed and a solution could be on the cards that would keep the project alive.

He said: “We’ll seek to challenge it in some way. We don’t think it’s right. As a local authority we are not a bottomless pit. We can’t keep pouring money into legal challenges and everything else to achieve an outcome, but this is absolutely imperative to the regeneration of the town.”

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