Sudbury: Council seeks advice on ‘expensive’ plot

A TOWN council is to seek finacial advice over what to do with a plot of land it bought for more than �300,000 in 2008, but has failed to find a use for.

Sudbury Town Council’s planning committee has drawn up a list of possible uses for the site behind the town hall in Gaol Lane, which is now thought to be worth only half what the council paid for it. Suggestions include selling portions of the plot to neighbouring landowners, or allowing affordable housing to be built on the site. But at a meeting this week, it was decided that an independent view was needed to properly assess all of the options.

Council member Ian Pointon said: “In a time of economic downturn, we are sitting on an expensive asset but it is particularly embarrassing that we bought it and have done nothing with it.

“I feel it would be worthwhile investing a small amount of money to commission a financial appraisal of all the options. It may be that we have to take a bit of a loss on it to service a debt for something that is neither use nor ornament to the town.”

As Babergh’s planning policy will not allow the plot to be used purely for residential purposes, the only option would be to build a mixed use development on the site. Councillors agreed there was little need for extra retail premises. One of them, Cllr John Sayers, believes the best use of the land would be to replace the toilet block currently on the site with a new facility.

He said: “We lost the facilities in Birketts Lane last year and the toilets in Gaol Lane are inadequate and far too small, so I think most people in the town would agree that it would be a sensible idea to build some new ones. We had plans drawn up in 2009 and I think we should get a quote for a new toilet block in line with the plans we already have.”

But town clerk Sue Brotherwood said Babergh had dropped the idea in 2009 because funding was not available, and it did not believe a new toilet block would “enhance the town”. Andy Welsh said his council colleagues should not revisit the idea if there was no money to pay for it, adding: “We have already burdened the taxpayer with land that we’ve been unable to use and we don’t want to saddle them with the cost of building toilets as well.” Mr Sayers said funding from the sale of the Birketts Lane site, or from the new Sainsbury’s contribution to the town, could finance the project.

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