New plans to extend town unveiled

FRESH plans to extend a Suffolk town with thousands of new homes and a multi-million pound sports complex have been unveiled by developers.But critics have rounded on Orion Land and Leisure's new scheme for a major mix of housing and sports facilities next to Mildenhall, claiming it could be “catastrophic” for west Suffolk.

FRESH plans to extend a Suffolk town with thousands of new homes and a multi-million pound sports complex have been unveiled by developers.

But critics have rounded on Orion Land and Leisure's new scheme for a major mix of housing and sports facilities next to Mildenhall, claiming it could be “catastrophic” for west Suffolk.

Orion previously lodged £1billion plans for around 5,000 new homes between Red Lodge and Kentford.

But the group's new Watermark scheme, if it goes ahead, would be adjacent to the A11, close to the Five Ways roundabout in Mildenhall.

The developer claims its latest blueprint, revealed yesterday, would meet the concerns raised by some over its previous application.

Orion was unable to state exactly how many new homes would be built, claiming the number depended on how much the sports facilities and road improvements would cost. The firm did, however, reveal it was likely to be between 1,800 and 5,000.

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The new plans have been criticised by the Five Villages Preservation Society, which claimed Orion had “missed the point by a million miles”.

Richard Olsen, chairman of Orion, said the project involved improving the notorious Five Ways junction and that high-level interest had been expressed in the sports complex idea.

He said: “The Football Association and various other groups have expressed an interest in the possibility of including a Sports Village as part of the development.

“The intention is that these Sports Villages will become an Olympic legacy promoting sport and a healthier lifestyle for the young people of the UK.”

He said the intention was to create a “sustainable, mixed use community” that would deliver economic prosperity for the Forest Heath district and enable employment.

The development would see a wide range of sports and leisure facilities, a commercial business park, as well as housing, designed to complement the existing environment and heritage of the area, he added.

“We have listened to positive and negative comments expressed by a wide range of stakeholders regarding the initial Watermark proposals and have made changes accordingly, primarily demonstrated through a change of location,” Mr Olsen said.

“This has resulted in a revision to our plans which, we believe, immeasurably strengthens them and benefits all those with an interest in ensuring a prosperous future for Forest Heath, its current residents and future generations.”

But Andrew Holman, chairman of the Five Villages Preservation Society, said: “It misses the point by a million miles. The issue that was brought up previously was that this was the wrong location and the wrong proposal. Moving it down the road doesn't make it the right location.

“It was very clearly stated that the residents of Forest Heath wanted local leisure development based around their own needs and not a big centralised development that will meet other people's needs.”

He added: “To use all the district's housing allocation in one area would be catastrophic for the rest of the district.”

Forest Heath District Council is holding a full council meeting on Wednesday where the idea of a regional-level sporting complex will be discussed.

Carol Lynch, vice chairman of the community services committee, said she was unable to discuss Orion's plans at the present stage but added: “We are very interested to see what the proposals will be.”

laurence.cawley@eadt.co.uk

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