Another day, another council HQ sale mess

Owl says: what is it about councils and HQ relocation that seems it ALWAYS goes pear shaped!!!

“Active Urban Property Group (AUPG) wants to build 100 homes at Suffolk Coastal District Council’s (SCDC) former Melton Hill offices in Woodbridge, sparking residents opposition.

The Ipswich firm won the council contract to redevelop the site in 2016 and its application for the homes was given provisional approval by SCDC’s planning committee in October 2017.

But it needed to satisfy conditions – including affordable housing – before councillors would grant full planning permission.

Since then, nothing has come before the planning committee and critics said the project had stalled, leaving the future of an important site in doubt. …

The proposals had already generated hundreds of objections, many criticising the design of the buildings, which have been described as “cheese wedges”. Public scrutiny has been heightened due to the site’s prominent location and its role in SCDC’s accommodation plan.

The plan, which saw the council move to new £3.9million headquarters in Riduna Park, Melton, in 2016, is hoped to save the taxpayer £8m over 20 years through cheaper running costs.

Although SCDC insists it is still on course to make the savings, the council cannot finalise the sale of Melton Hill until planning permission is granted.

It is understood affordable housing is the main issue to be resolved. AUPG had entered a partnership with Flagship Homes, one of Suffolk’s largest providers of social housing, but the agreement was dissolved in August 2017.

Councillors familiar with the deal claim Flagship’s involvement influenced SCDC’s choice of developer, due to its reputation and financial position. They say Flagship’s withdrawal as a partner in the scheme should have led SCDC to question how AUPG could deliver the project alone.

David Hughes, a director with AUPG, said the partnership’s dissolution was due to a “change in personnel” at Flagship and he expected the planning application to go before the planning committee on April 19.

He insisted the affordable housing would be delivered and said its plans were submitted to the council’s planning department “before Christmas”.

Flagship Homes managing director Tony Tann has not commented on the partnership ending but said Flagship was still involved and “would be pleased to procure the affordable homes”.

He said Flagship was awaiting a response from AUPG regarding its offer.

Much of the criticism of AUPG’s proposals has focused on the difference between its designs and those in a masterplan, released in April 2016.

While the first plans were for 68 homes, retaining two older buildings and the Drummer Boy statue, AUPG’s revisions released last June were for 100 homes and to remove the older buildings.

People at a consultation event last year expressed “shock” at the “radically different” plans, which were “completely unsympathetic” to the surroundings. …”