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Ipswich: Time has come to rid Waterfront of crumbling eyesore and Portman Road could hold the secret

PUBLISHED: 14:40 11 March 2013 | UPDATED: 14:40 11 March 2013

The Waterfront - The Star is calling on the council to take action over the Stoke Bridge entrance

The Waterfront - The Star is calling on the council to take action over the Stoke Bridge entrance

TODAY The Star calls on the borough to take action to sort out the most pressing problem facing the Waterfront.

Politicians divided over the problem

BOROUGH council leader David Ellesmere said he would love to see the authority seek a compulsory purchase order for the sites – but claimed it would prove too expensive.

“I don’t think it would be possible as things stand at the moment,” he said.

“It’s the kind of thing that could have been contemplated a few years ago when EEDA (the former East of England Development Agency) had money to spend on regenerating areas such as when it helped get The Mill developed.

“But there is not the money available now. We could only consider that kind of action if we had a developer on board to take on a major project there.

“And you are not going to get that to happen in the present economic climate.”

He said that if the borough did buy the properties, it would probably cost more than a million pounds to demolish the buildings and clear the site.

But Mr Ellesmere’s claims that the borough was unable to consider purchasing the sites did not impress the town’s Tory MP Ben Gummer.

He said: “I fear this is the borough yet again trying to duck out of an important decision for the town. It could use its capital to take this on and make a real difference.”

He said the borough already owned large pieces of land in the town and it could easily sell some of these assets to take on the waterfront entrance, which would be a boost to the whole area.

Mr Gummer added: “I don’t want to tell the council what they should or should not sell, but we know the football club is keen to buy the freehold of Portman Road.”

He said the council needed to consider using its assets to boost the town as a whole: “Labour councils elsewhere in the country have done that very effectively.

“By buying and selling land, Labour-run Manchester City Council has helped regenerate that city dramatically over the last few years,” he said.

The area between Stoke Bridge and The Mill is occupied by a number of different buildings.

St Peter’s Warehouse was a Victorian listed building that had been derelict for years until it was seriously damaged in a devastating fire in 2000.

What remained of the building was demolished in 2009 and the site converted into a temporary surface car park.

Pauls specialist malt silo was in use until the 1990s – but has been out of use since then.

Burton’s building was used in the manufacture of confectionary supplies until the company closed and moved out of town in the 1980s.

The other Burton’s building was successfully converted into the Cardinal Lofts scheme by developers Braceforce about 10 years ago.

Sort out the mess that blights the most important entrance to the town’s jewel – and use compulsory purchase orders to buy the redundant land between Stoke Bridge and the stalled Mill development.

For too long this entrance to the town’s most important feature has been ignored by officials and developers – who are apparently put off by the jigsaw of owners who each have an interest in a comparatively small area of land.

The area includes the long-derelict Pauls malting silo, part of the former Burton’s building, and the wall that surrounds the former St Peter’s Warehouse that was destroyed by fire more than a decade ago and finally demolished in 2009 to become a “temporary” car park.

There are five separate patches of land – with three owners identified by the borough.

The site of the former St Peter’s Warehouse is owned by Anthony Beeson who lives near Needham Market.

The former Pauls malting silo – and a small part of the former Burton’s building is owned by Sassan Holdings with a mortgage held by the Investec Bank.

The rest of the Burton’s building is split into two separate units, the registered owner of both is Hampden Homes – both are mortgaged to an Irish bank whose assets are now held by the National Asset Management Authority (NAMA).

That is the body that now has control of The Mill and Regatta Quay.

The ownership of St Peter’s Wharf – next to the river and the Wet Dock itself – is unclear and the borough is unable to establish who is responsible for it.

The land is dominated by derelict buildings which are a blight on the entrance to the Waterfront – and are potentially dangerous.

Just last month The Star revealed that the former Burton’s building was being used as a drugs den – and it is thought that vagrants or drug users could have started the fire that destroyed St Peter’s Warehouse in 2000.

Should the borough seek compulsory purchase powers? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail starletters@archant.co.uk

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