Fears over riverside development plan

LAND earmarked for controversial riverside development by a local company has been sold off to a national building firm more than five years after plans for the site were unveiled.

By Roddy Ashworth

LAND earmarked for controversial riverside development by a local company has been sold off to a national building firm more than five years after plans for the site were unveiled.

Lexden Restorations proposed creating a high class, mixed-use development of the former Cook's Shipyard, in Wivenhoe, which would have comprised 76 units and a raft of community benefits.

But now the company's owner, Jonathan Frank, has sold the brownfield site to major developer Taylor Woodrow, citing long delays in getting the final go-ahead for building work for the project as the reason.

Mr Frank unveiled multi-million pound proposals for the 3.4 hectare site - which has stood derelict for almost 20 years - in 2001, and received planning permission for his blueprint a year later.

But the permission was subject to a number of conditions, including the provision of subsequent changes to roads in Wivenhoe because of potential problems with access.

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Residents of the town had inundated planning officers with more than 100 letters of objection to the scheme, although officers at the council described it as a "model" development.

As well as high quality buildings, it accommodated room for fishermen to moor their boats, public toilets, a riverside walkway and six acres of marshland which would be dedicated to conservation.

But Mr Frank told the EADT that constant negotiations and discussions of conditions with relevant authorities had tied up the plan to the extent that he could no longer spend time pressing ahead with it.

"I felt very disillusioned with it," Mr Frank said yesterday. "Five years on and we're not in a position to start work - we have encountered delay after delay after delay in every aspect of the planning application.

"I think it needs someone of Taylor Woodrow's size to overcome the difficulties we have encountered."

Mr Frank said that instead of the Wivenhoe project he wanted to concentrate on restoring and refurbishing listed buildings on Colchester's former garrison site, an area also being developed for housing by Taylor Woodrow.

Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Taylor Woodrow said the firm wanted to follow the broad principles of Mr Frank's scheme for Cook's Shipward, although some details would be altered.

Wivenhoe mayor Peter Hill said: "I think this news is hugely disappointing for the people of Wivenhoe.

"He [Mr Frank] has been very approachable and we had a high degree of confidence that during the period of construction he would be very considerate to people living in the roads close to Cook's Shipyard.

"It is difficult to understand why matters have taken so long. This news is what we were fearing."

Richard Gower, cabinet member at Colchester Borough Council with responsibility for planning policy, said: "There was a dispute between what the borough wanted and what Wivenhoe Town Council wanted.

"The residents of Wivenhoe were more than concerned about the highways issues.

"However, Lexden Restorations have never approached me, and if they thought the service they were receiving was not good enough I would have expected that."

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