One in five town centre units empty, report reveals

Shoppers on London Road North in Lowestoft ahead of the second lockdown. Picture: Mick Howes

Shoppers on London Road North in Lowestoft ahead of the second lockdown. Picture: Mick Howes - Credit: Mick Howes

More than one in five town centre buildings are vacant in Lowestoft, as progress on a council's local plan is revealed.

Since adopting the Waveney Local Plan in March 2019, East Suffolk Council has been working towards protecting town centres and improving "quality of life for everyone growing up in, living in, working in and visiting" the area.

The plan could see more than 9,000 new homes and 5,000 new jobs created by 2036, as well as development of a multiplex cinema in Lowestoft, new restaurants and increased hotel provision in Lowestoft and Beccles.

Beccles town centre on the first day of the second national lockdown. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

Beccles remains above the national average for positive coronavirus cases, despite a drop of more than 60pc. - Credit: NEIL DIDSBURY

Now, the council's Authority Monitoring Report for 2019/20 has been released to show progress on the delivery of the Waveney and Suffolk Coastal local plans, with the latter being adopted in September 2020.

The report has found 12pc of units in East Suffolk town centres were vacant, rising to 21pc in Lowestoft, although highlights the council's Town Centre Masterplan which it states "will help to improve the town centre environment and attract more businesses and visitors in the future."

The report also states 819 new homes have been built around the district, 27pc of which were affordable housing, although Waveney's 159 new homes is a "significant" drop from the 297 built the previous year.

The figure includes 40 new builds in Lowestoft and 18 each in Oulton Broad and Blundeston.


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Similarly, only 28 affordable homes were built in Waveney, with 16 coming in Blundeston, while Bungay saw the loss of three affordable homes.

East Suffolk Council's cabinet member for planning and coastal management David Ritchie.

East Suffolk Council's cabinet member for planning and coastal management David Ritchie. - Credit: Amy Smith

Councillor David Ritchie, cabinet member for planning and coastal management, said: "This annual report is the main mechanism for assessing the delivery of the local plans and performs an important role by highlighting performance in key areas, such as housing delivery and employment land take-up.

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"A mass of useful supporting and background information on environmental, economic and social matters in East Suffolk is also available through easy-to-search pages on our Open Data Portal, and I would encourage people to find out more about what happened in their local area or parish in 2019/20."

The report also states £5.1 million of Community Infrastructure Levy was collected from developers to help pay for new and improved infrastructure and support delivery of the local plans.

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