Outrage over proposed development for former council offices

A previous CGI view of the proposed homes as seen across the meadow from the riverside end of the si

A previous CGI view of the proposed homes as seen across the meadow from the riverside end of the site at Melton Hill Picture: HOOPERS ARCHITECTS - Credit: Archant

Woodbridge residents have expressed their anger at plans to create 100 new homes on the site of the former Suffolk Coastal District Council offices in the town.

Developer Active Urban is hoping that its third application will be accepted after concerns over affordable housing levels saw it dismissed in November.

The latest application for the site, now known as King's View, proposes 32 affordable properties for the site as well as a change in the number of bedrooms offered.

Despite the changes, the application has generated 185 comments from the public on the East Suffolk Council website; of these 184 were objections.

Among the concerns from residents were questions of overdevelopment of the site, loss of privacy for neighbours and traffic from the homes.

Questions were also asked about the necessity of such apartments.

"There is an over saturation of apartments in the Woodbridge area," said Chris Mapey.

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"These are seemingly selling at a much slower rate than was anticipated by the developers - quite what a further 100 units are going to do to this saturated market is unknown."

Many of the comments also focused on the distinctive design of the site which has been compared to cheesewedges.

"Please don't let this monstrosity blight the charm of Woodbridge," said Edwin Attwood.

"This hideous design is out of keeping with local properties."

"This proposed development is still as unsympathetic and overbearing as it was previously," added Dr Phillip Davey.

What are the developers saying?

An agent for Active Urban said: "It is recognised that some concerns have been expressed about the design of the scheme, however the proposal has been considered on two previous occasions by the Planning Committee at East Suffolk Council and the design approach was supported.

"The planning officer's report to Committee stated that "the scheme is considered to be well thought out, innovative, responsive to its context and an appropriate solution for the site." Furthermore the scheme was assessed by the RIBA Suffolk Design Review Panel, and was endorsed independently of the Council.

"We are confident that this will be a fitting design for the site and will be a highly attractive development.

"In considering the scheme previously, the Council has accepted that the 100 homes proposed will result in a reduction in overall trips compared to the historical use of the site as Council offices.

"It is also the case that if the site were to be re-occupied as offices, the same would apply. It should also be noted that the office use would have more tidal flows in the peak hours, whereas a residential scheme will see more balanced flows across the day.

"The Council agreed previously that this reduction in traffic compared to the lawful use would have positive effects on the Air Quality Management Area close to the site.

"We are confident that we have a product that will be attractive to the market and have no concerns over sales.

"We are also delivering some 32 affordable units which will be available for rent or low cost ownership on a shared equity basis."

East Suffolk Council will have the final say on the plans in the next few months.

Who exactly will make a decision on the plans?

Concerns had been raised that the final decision on the planning application would be taken by planning officers rather than East Suffolk's planning committee with a petition being set up.

However, East Suffolk have confirmed this is not the case.

A spokesman for East Suffolk Council said: "The planning application for the old Suffolk Coastal District Council offices at Melton Hill, submitted by Active Urban Woodbridge Ltd, will obviously be considered by East Suffolk Council's Planning Committee.

"There was never any possibility that this matter could be decided by officers, as this would not be allowed by the Council's Constitution, and we are unsure where this inaccurate rumour originated.

"East Suffolk Council is the landowner of the site of the former Council Offices, at Melton Hill. The Council's Constitution specifically states (in Part 2, Section E, page 45) that where the landowner is East Suffolk Council, the application cannot be delegated to the Head of Planning and Coastal Management for determination.

"The Melton Hill application is currently out for consultation. As soon as a date is set for this application to go to the Planning Committee, it will be publicised on the Council's website, in the usual way."