Critics attack garden centre scheme

OPPONENTS of a multi-million pound development on one of Woodbridge's most attractive sites have claimed that it is the wrong place for a modern medical centre.

By Richard Smith

OPPONENTS of a multi-million pound development on one of Woodbridge's most attractive sites have claimed that it is the wrong place for a modern medical centre.

Suffolk Preservation Society (SPS) believes that the Notcutts site in Ipswich Road is so important that it should be safeguarded from an ''uncompromising urban'' transformation.

The society has prepared a report for Suffolk Coastal District Council about the garden centre's ambitious plans to redevelop the six hectare site. Notcutts wants permission for an enlarged garden centre, a new access, a medical centre, flats, terraced housing, sheltered housing and possibly a nursing home.

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Planning policy states that the area chosen for the medical area should be protected from development.

Notcutts has stressed that a modern medical centre with full facilities would be a benefit for the town and this would justify a departure from the Local Plan.

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But Rachel Bridges, a planning representative for the SPS said: ''The Society does not believe this is the right site for the medical centre. Even if it were, it would not justify the residential development. Notcutts is a successful business and has enough spare capacity to enable the expansion it desires.

''A major development such as this would make an uncompromising urban statement on this extremely important site. The SPS concludes, on the basis of the facts available, that it is not prepared to endorse this scheme.''

Mrs Bridges said the plans represented a ''major development package on a site of critical importance'' for the town.

''It is impossible to over-rate the value to Woodbridge of this large area with its varying gradients, many fine trees and shrubs, and the open views that even the tops of bulky buildings would damage.

''Although there are areas that admittedly need attention, its long history of horticultural excellence give it a unique quality.''

She said the SPS was not convinced that Notcutts was the only or the best site for the medical centre, to be used by the Framfield House surgery.

However, the practice partners have said they spent four years analysing all possible sites in Woodbridge for a new surgery for their 9,800 patients and if they could not move to Notcutts they would have to move out of Woodbridge.

Ana Selby, chief executive of the Suffolk Coastal Primary Care Trust, has given her full backing to the proposals. She said: ''People in Woodbridge would benefit from GPs and other services being delivered from purpose built premises. New premises enhance the environment in which care is provided, giving patients an improved experience of visiting their GP or other health care professional.''

The district council is expected to make a decision on the plans on February 5.

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