Leiston: Call for parking pledge as land sale is explored

Suffolk Coastal District Council

Suffolk Coastal District Council - Credit: Archant

Informal proposals to sell off a patch of land including a town’s biggest car park have been met with initial approval.

But businesses in Leiston will want assurances from any potential developer that provision of free evening parking spaces is maintained.

The site between High Street and Eastward Ho was offered as a preferred alternative to retail giant Tesco before it abandoned plans to build a new store on the outskirts of the town.

Suffolk Coastal is now exploring the idea of selling the land – possibly to make way for a supermarket.

There has already been interest in the site, but the district council’s resources chief insists a deal is a long way off. Robert Whiting said: “We are only testing the market at the moment – looking for expressions of interest.

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“Leiston could be on the brink of a brilliant opportunity to exploit such a large area, much of which is derelict.

“Yes, there are empty units elsewhere, but we’re talking about attracting people to the town with a larger unit. The market will determine the interest.

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“I have checked with district councillors and with the town council and they seem very supportive.”

Mr Whiting said the 73-space car park was underused and that a retail study in 2009 identified a need for retail space in Leiston.

An adjacent patch of land providing access to Sizewell Road is also on the market privately. Council officers would be likely to discuss a joint deal with the landowner if they found a suitable buyer and the cabinet approved the sale.

Leiston Town Council would insist that any potential developers work within the new Neighbourhood Plan, which is currently in production, and that a supply of free evening parking must be maintained.

Leiston Business Association chairman Chris Nichols agreed. He said: “We would definitely like to see that guarantee.

“The car park is not used much during the day, but it is used in the evenings, particularly by cinema customers.”

Mr Whiting said he would only take the proposal to cabinet if there is a “sensible and constructive interest for the benefit of Leiston”.

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