Rendlesham: Villagers voice disapproval as committee scouts proposal site

A group of villagers aired their frustration at plans to replace two disused buildings with new home

A group of villagers aired their frustration at plans to replace two disused buildings with new homes - Credit: Archant

Placard-waving villagers confronted Suffolk Coastal planners as they scoped out two sites desired by housing developers.

Councillors visited Rendlesham amid protest over a bid for new homes to replace the former Angel Theatre and sports centre - bought by developers from the Ministry of Defence in 1997 as part of the old airbase.

The parish council is fighting the application, having submitted its own proposal in March to retain the buildings for community use.

The theatre, which closed in 2007, and the sports centre - out of action since 2009 - both form part of the village’s emerging Neighbourhood Plan - the first of its kind in the district to win Government backing.

But developers say neither building was profitable when in use, and want to replace the sports centre with 23 homes and the theatre with 26.

Rendlesham Parish Council’s Carole Brason said: “We have 3,500 people sleeping here, but with nowhere to actually live.

“Our existing community centre is too small for our needs, so we want to move activities to the theatre and return the sports centre to full use. The community centre would then be available for retail. This is a ‘three building model’ we have been working long and hard on.

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“We are not against development, but we need the infrastructure to support it.

“If we can’t develop the centre of our village, what good is the Neighbourhood Plan? This would blow it out of the water.”

Should planning permission be granted, the applicant has offered to wait one year before developing the sports centre, to allow the parish council or a community group to secure funds to buy the building.

Andy Smith, planning chief at Suffolk Coastal, which has received a petition of 1,830 signatures and 471 letters of objection to the bid, said: “Members of the development control committee had a very informative site visit to Rendlesham, which will greatly assist our decision making on this proposal.

“We were able to question the developer and a representative of the parish council to assist us in understanding the facts about the situation in Rendlesham. We have already received many comments on this proposal and I would encourage anyone with any further comments to feed them into Suffolk Coastal, so they can inform the democratic process when this matter comes before the committee.”

The application, made by Boyer Planning on behalf of Walnut Tree Properties, will be discussed on August 14.