Legal threat over seafront building

HERITAGE chiefs have threatened to take legal action against a local authority which has given the green light to proposals to demolish a historic seafront building.

HERITAGE chiefs have threatened to take legal action against a local authority which has given the green light to proposals to demolish a historic seafront building.

Suffolk Preservation Society (SPS) has warned it will seek a judicial review if Suffolk Coastal District Council pushes ahead with plans to knock down the Herman de Stern building in order to pave the way for a multi-million pound redevelopment of Felixstowe's south seafront.

The group claim they were denied access to the building during the planning consultation period and were unable to submit their views on the proposals and that the decision is against the original local plan in which the Herman de Stern was to be integrated into any new scheme.

Richard Ward, director of SPS, said: “We have taken legal advice over whether the consultation process was done correctly. The advice suggests that Suffolk Coastal has acted illegally.

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“It is not a decision we have taken lightly. We are a registered charity and therefore don't have exhaustive funds however if the plans are carried out we will have no choice but to look at a judicial review so the building isn't destroyed.

“We have never done anything like this before but we have real reservations the council hasn't dealt with this properly. In their original local plan they said the Herman de Stern building should be saved however this seems to have been ripped up. If they want to re-write policy it should be done after consultation to justify the process.

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“We have written to Suffolk Coastal challenging them to set aside their plans and to work with so we can come up with a better solution that would save the Herman de Stern building and be a real credit to the town.”

In 2004 planning permission for housing along the south seafront, which involved the demolition of the Herman de Stern building - a former theatre and convalescent home - was denied but in December council chiefs approved a scheme by developers Bloor Homes for 158 homes and a public park along with accompanying recreational facilities.

Mr Ward claimed the decision was one of a number in which Suffolk Coastal had failed to take into account the views of local people.

The situation has prompted the SPS to launch Who's Masters Voice?, a campaign to try and get planning authorities to listen to the views of local communities and parish councils.

Mr Ward said: “Unfortunately what is happening in Felixstowe is part of a much bigger picture where local views are being ignored at the expense of hitting national targets. It is a problem occurring across the country and something that needs to be urgently addressed.”

Ray Herring, leader of Suffolk Coastal, said the authority's solicitor had written to SPS on January 23 to confirm the planning application for the south seafront was legally sound.

He continued: “We know SPS is seeking a judicial review and we have requested that it share details of its legal advice and how exactly they think we have failed to comply with the rules.

“The facts about the Herman de Stern, which has never had any official protected status, have been spelt out at exhibitions, on our website, in the details submitted with both planning applications and in numerous committee reports.

“Since early 2004, the council has made it clear that demolition of the building was a real possibility as, because of its layout and construction, it has not proved attractive to anyone wanting to it take over as there would be significant conversion costs.”

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