Talks reach stalemate over £500m project

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Fresh talks on plans to create 500 new jobs at Prolog, a major Sudbury employer, were grounded this week.

The company was granted permission to build two office and industrial units on land off Church Field Road in May, with hopes to significantly expand its workforce.

But a set of conditions drawn up between Babergh District Council and the business to help mitigate the impact of the development have continued to hold up the project, with further talks due to be held this week.

However, Peter Tyrer, a director at Prolog, said a meeting had to be cancelled because of “outstanding and unresolved issues”.

The company, established in Sudbury more than 25 years ago, had sought to make changes to the conditions attached to the planning consent for the £500million project.

He said: “We have been in active discussions with council officers with a view to get an agreement that will meet the legitimate concerns of the area’s heritage assets while, at the same time, giving us a project that is viable.

“We have one or two things we have to get sorted out so while we not yet there, we are hoping it will be something that can be resolved fairly soon.”

He said the company’s expansion plans had not changed, but building work would depend on the economic circumstances at the time. The company specialises in outsourcing and customer call centres and he said competition for business was fierce.

Ward councillor Jenny Antill said the agreement sought guarantees that the jobs would be come a reality and that Prolog would occupy the site and not sell the land on to a third party.

She said: “Since permission was granted, Prolog has baulked at agreeing to such conditions, rewriting the agreement on terms that are far less onerous to it.

“Normally, the failure to sign an acceptable agreement of this sort should have resulted in planning permission being refused. However, the council finds itself between a rock and a hard place.”

She said she has called on Babergh to encourage Prolog to meet community representatives to try to “move matters on”.

“At present, the situation appears to be one of stalemate,” she said. “Prolog and its agents have repeatedly refused to consult with local residents and the parish council on its plans.

“I am sure that, were the company to engage with the people of Chilton, particularly those living close to the site, a less damaging scheme could be developed that would cause less harm to the environment and would fulfil Prolog’s requirements.”

Simon Barrett, vice-chairman of Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, defended the company’s position, saying it was frustrating.

“I think people are making it very difficult for Prolog and it’s totally unacceptable,” he said. “I find it very frustrating.

“A business has to look at whether these things are viable or not and I feel some people have a totally naive view of what it’s really like to run a company.”

“I know Babergh wants to resolve the situation but some of the conditions are not workable and are not the type of conditions that are usually subject to such an agreement.”