Revealed - Stumbling block to Martlesham police HQ homes plan could need hefty taxpayer settlement
PUBLISHED: 19:00 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 07:33 14 August 2019
A significant payout of taxpayer cash could be needed for homes at the Martlesham police headquarters site to be developed, it has emerged.
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore unveiled plans last summer for an outline planning application to be submitted for up to 300 homes on the Martlesham police HQ site, to establish the value of the land.
But a conveyance note from previous landowners Bradford Property Trust and the police force from 1973 has emerged which restricts construction to around half of the site only.
Mr Passmore has confirmed that if outline permission is gained, then negotiations would be needed with Bradford for a settlement.
"If we find the property trust wants to make money, we won't move, so there needs to be sensible negotiations," Mr Passmore said.
"We have to have value for the taxpayer and there has to be a substantial financial benefit.
"I should think it is something that is seven figures to clear.
"We have a statutory requirement to hit the red book value - that's the highest possible amount, and to maximise the value we have to get outline planning permission.
"If we get planning permission we will have a good idea of what it's worth.
"We are not going to do this unless there is a financial gain. If it's marginal where we might save £100,000 you can forget about it."
Mr Passmore confirmed that the force was not bound either way to keep or sell the site, and if a workable sum could not be reached with Bradford then the decision would be made to remain.
However, an estimated £4million maintenance backlog exists on the site, meaning the possibility of selling the land for homes and moving elsewhere must be weighed against that.
It is believed to be highly likely the site will feature as land for potential homes in the next draft of the council's local plan, with outline planning permission expected to be submitted this November.
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That will then go for a decision from the council sometime in 2020, which if successful will provide a base point for negotiations with Bradford to determine whether remaining in Martlesham or selling the land is more financially viable.
Having outline planning permission and inclusion in the local plan would almost certainly increase the value of the land.
East Suffolk Council has confirmed the conveyance note does not need to be considered by the council in determining planning permission, as it was an agreement at the time of the land sale and not one with the planning authority.
A spokeswoman from Bradford said: "Bradford Property Trust, which was subsequently acquired by Grainger, sold the land in question to Suffolk police in 1973, imposing a covenant that restricted the use of part of the land to playing fields. This covenant remains in place."
January 1973 - Bradford Property Trust sells the land to Suffolk police
January 2015 - Tim Passmore first suggests publicly that Martlesham police HQ site could be sold
June 2018 - Information day held and opportunity for public feedback launched over potential sale of site for homes
October 2018 - Feedback published from the consultation. Outline planning application expected to be submitted by end of 2018
Late 2018 - 2018 passes with no planning application submitted
August 2019 - East Suffolk Council local plan consultation ends and PCC confirms plan to submit outline planning application in November
November 2019 - Outline planning application expected to be submitted
Spring 2020 - East Suffolk Council expected to determine outline planning application
Summer 2020 - Full financial evaluation to be carried out, including negotiations with Bradford Property Trust