Injunction may stop building demolition

DEMOLITION of an historic seafront building could start in a matter of weeks - but Suffolk heritage chiefs have pledged to stop the move through the courts.

DEMOLITION of an historic seafront building could start in a matter of weeks - but Suffolk heritage chiefs have pledged to stop the move through the courts.

Suffolk Coastal District Council confirmed its intention yesterday to bulldoze the burnt-out Herman de Stern building on Felixstowe's seafront “as soon as possible”.

It said the structure had been “a boarded-up eyesore” ever since an arson attack last September and specialist contractors were now being sought to take down the remains of the building and safely remove the asbestos material.

The demolition will not be able to start until councillors agree to a change in the conditions it set on the multi-million pound redevelopment of the seafront.

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The next meeting of the sub-committee is on September 14 and, if the item makes it onto the agenda, the Herman de Stern - a former theatre and convalescent home - could be flattened very soon after.

But Richard Ward, director of the Suffolk Preservation Society, which has already instructed legal counsel to advise on the lawfulness of granting planning permission to the site, has said it would seek an injunction to stop the demolition.

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It would then give the society time to have the legality of the decision-making process reviewed, he said.

“We are being pushed more and more into a difficult corner. We are being tested and they have thrown down the gauntlet as a challenge as if to say 'are you prepared to do what you say'. It smacks of pressurising us into a difficult decision,” Mr Ward said.

Ray Herring, Suffolk Coastal's council leader, said: “I can reiterate that we want to press ahead with the demolition of the Herman De Stern as soon as possible.

“For legal reasons, this will not occur until after the south area development control sub-committee has agreed to a minor change to the conditions it set last December on the exciting leisure park and housing redevelopment of the 17.5acre site in which the building lies.

“This building is a health and safety risk, and a danger to the public, given the fact there is asbestos scattered about the debris as a result of the fire.

“We have had to fence off the site and restrict access to the building, and it has been a real problem for us as a potential magnet for vandals and unauthorised intruders.”

The plans for 158 homes, a public park and accompanying recreational facilities were granted planning permission with a series of conditions in December last year.

The condition that the council is seeking to change relates to the spending priorities of any shared profit the sale of the homes makes for its partners, Bloor Homes.

Mr Herring said what had been recommended was “just a tightening up of what was agreed by councillors in December”.

Since the application was approved, the Government has decided it does not wish to 'call-in' the council's plans for the site. The local authority has already said it has no further direct use for the Herman De Stern and that it has failed to attract any interest from outside bodies.

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