Garden centre project gets go-ahead

A LEADING garden centre has been given the go-ahead to overturn planning policy and build houses on its prime site in Woodbridge.Notcutts was granted approval by a majority of five councillors at Suffolk Coastal District Council's development control sub committee yesterdayfor the £5million redevelopment of six hectares of land on Ipswich Road.

By Richard Smith

A LEADING garden centre has been given the go-ahead to overturn planning policy and build houses on its prime site in Woodbridge.

Notcutts was granted approval by a majority of five councillors at Suffolk Coastal District Council's development control sub committee yesterdayfor the £5million redevelopment of six hectares of land on Ipswich Road.

The controversial project will contain a medical centre to replace the Framfield House doctors' surgery.

The garden centre will more than double in size and 70 sheltered housing units and 28 open market flats, with nine affordable flats, will be built.

The open space fronting Ipswich Road will maintained as public open land and a roundabout will be installed at the junction of Cherry Tree Road.

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Building houses on the land is contrary to the district council's Local Plan - but planning officers and councillors said the community benefits arising from a modern surgery outweighed the disadvantages.

Petitions signed by more than 1,000 people and more than 200 letters supported Notcutts in its bid. Objectors sent nearly 100 letters.

John Lynch, a partner at Framfield House, said the new medical centre was in the primary care trust's top five projects.

“If the planning application fails, our business plan falls and we lose the funding,” he said.

He warned it could take years to find another site and it could be out of Woodbridge.

Out of the practice's 10,000 patients, 4,900 live outside Woodbridge and Dr Lynch said half of the patients already used Ipswich Road to access the surgery in St John's Street and there would not be a large increase in traffic if the practice moved to Notcutts.

Ed Stanford, of Ipswich Road, told the committee there were more than 40 powerful reasons to reject the scheme and he added that the number of housing units had grown from 64 in the first rejected application to 98 in the revised plan.

After the decision, Mr Stanford said: “We understood the Local Plan was firm planning guidance but what the committee has told us is that it has little substance and it can be overturned at will. That raises questions about any future developments the council decides to go for.”

Cliff Cocker, a Woodbridge district councillor, said at the meeting: “Notcutts does provide a great deal of employment and commercial input into this town which will be lost if the site can not be allowed to be financially viable.

“Should we stop all changes in Woodbridge and allow the town to decay, or allow changes which will benefit the whole town and residents?”

He added it was unfair that the doctors had to try to dispense 21st Century health care in a completely inadequate Grade II Listed building.

But Nigel Barratt, another Woodbridge district councillor, urged the committee to listen to compelling reasons to refuse the plan and he said it was an overdevelopment of the site.

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