Ikea quiet on warehouse plan's future

PLANS to construct a massive furniture warehouse in Suffolk almost three times bigger than the terminal at Stansted Airport may be in doubt, it has been claimed.

PLANS to construct a massive furniture warehouse in Suffolk almost three times bigger than the terminal at Stansted Airport may be in doubt, it has been claimed.

Swedish giant IKEA won approval for the huge building on the outskirts of Stanton, near Bury St Edmunds, almost one year ago, but negotiations which would allow construction work to begin are still taking place.

And a spokesman for the company said last night that until discussions had concluded, she could not say whether or not bulldozers would soon move onto the site.

One of the chief opponents when the proposals were first unveiled now thinks IKEA is only holding onto Stanton as an option.

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"Certainly the people I have spoken and are informed on the subject have doubts IKEA would carry on with the development at Stanton," claimed Fred Rutherford, who spearheaded a widespread campaign to reject the plans, due to fears over the traffic it would create along the busy A143."

He said he believed they were pursuing negotiations on the site as an "option", before finally deciding whether to commit to the project.

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"They will then have a five-year window in which to build, but there is no sign, I have heard, that there are any plans whatsoever to develop the site, and they are merely keeping it as an option."

But a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said a draft agreement had been drawn up with IKEA, adding negotiations were now at a "well advanced" stage.

"The agreement covers planning and highways issues," she said. "There is a draft agreement with us currently, for us to comment upon, and negotiations are at a well advanced stage.

"But we cannot yet give a date as to when work will begin on site."

Jim Thorndyke, who serves the area on St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said the project would be "good news" for the area, should it go ahead, adding he was "not unduly disturbed" by the lack of progress.

But he said a licence allowing large quantities of gas to be stored on site must be changed to comply with health and safety regulations before work could begin – which may well be adding to the delays.

"Obviously the sooner IKEA start on it, the better," he said. "But while it is still rumbling on I am not unduly disturbed.

"Initially, around 150 jobs will be provided, which is good news. The warehouse will be built in two phases, but we don't know how far down the road it will be before the second half is complete, which would provide more jobs.

"The project is good news for the area, as it will tidy the industrial estate up quite a bit and encourage new development."

IKEA company bosses told the EADT six months ago that they were "still committed" to the move to Suffolk, but final planning permission will not be granted until negotiations are complete.

The furniture store will then have a five-year window to begin work at Stanton.

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