Planning update, May 2021

The Society wrote to express general support of the West Suffolk Local Plan and the town’s status as a ‘go to’ location for shopping, entertainment, employment and education. We also sought assurances to protect the town’s historic environment, especially within the conservation areas – and we called for improved public transport and rail links with the wider West Suffolk area.

The Society supported plans to bring the Suffolk Hotel back to life by converting the empty Edinburgh Woollen Mill premises on the Buttermarket. However, the Society was aware of local concern about the entrance foyer being located on Higher Baxter Street, so we suggested that one of the existing shops might be converted into a ‘market bar’ to provide an alternative access from the Buttermarket.

The Society also commented upon the redevelopment of a brownfield site on Thingoe Hill off Fornham Road with 46 flats. The site is wedged between the railway line on one side and the A14 on the other, so we questioned how the plans would respond to the issues of noise and CO2 emissions. We also queried whether traffic control measures are required on Fornham Road.

Another brownfield site upon which we commented, was the former used car sales site on Tayfen Road almost opposite the junction with Springfield Road. The plans are for a four storey building comprising nine flats and three separate offices.  We considered the site was being over-developed and presented an overbearing cliff-face appearance to the road. And, looking to the future, surely ‘work/home’ apartments might be a more sustainable proposition than self contained offices.

The Society also commented upon preliminary proposals to locate the new hospital at Hardwick Manor behind the existing building on Hardwick Lane. The existing hospital was built in 1974, but now has only a ten year life expectancy.The proposed hospital is one of 26 allocated by the Government for ‘seed-funding’ as part of a nationwide new hospital building programme. Members may recall that Westley had previously been proposed for the new hospital, but this option has now been ruled out because of problems with site acquisition. Also, the existing hospital site contains many ancillary buildings which would be retained alongside the new proposals.The Society therefore accepted the case for building the new hospital at Hardwick Manor with caveats about access, parking and making maximum use of the existing site. We also sought assurances that the current level of health care would not be diminished. We do not wish to see our new facility reduced to the status of a satellite for Addenbrooks or Ipswich hospitals.

Wider afield, the Society commented upon recent Government plans which would make it easier to convert shops and commercial premises into residential use – which, to our concern, includes conservation areas. We are now beginning to see the results of this legislation with recent applications to change empty premises in the town into new homes.

And, finally,there is still no news about the Cornhill Walk shopping mall, following dismissal of the appeal in February.

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