Campaigner warned site would be sold off

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A Sudbury campaigner has said “I told you so” after he warned that granting planning permission for 43 new homes would make a developer a ‘millionaire’ .

Sudbury resident Theo Bird campaigned alongside the Sandy Lane Action Group to ensure community benefits were included in any accepted plans for a proposed development of homes on land east of Bulmer Road.

The developer, Essex-based Sandhurst Newhomes, claimed this would make the site financially unviable, and outline planning permission was granted without any conditions attached to the bid, such as schooling or improvements to the road network.

At the time, Mr Bird warned that giving this permission without securing any form of financial agreement would make the land owner an “overnight millionaire”.

He feels his fears have been vindicated after the site was put up for sale for £2.5million – more than triple the £750,000 it was for sale for as employment land.

Mr Bird was interested in starting a mixed use scheme at the site, including offices, which he says would have included community benefits.

However, he says the land owners “weren’t really interested in selling for employment land”, and feels councillors were equally uninterested.

Mr Bird echoed comments made by Edward Ward, a member of the Sandy Lane group, who, following the decision to pass the proposals, said Babergh planning committee chairman Peter Beer had appeared “hell bent” on passing the plans.

At the time, Mr Beer responded by saying that, despite 56 written objections, all the facts had been listened to, adding that members “had made their position known”.

Sudbury town councillor Simon Barrett, who said he would much prefer to see the site used, was also criticised for not raising any concerns.

“I thought I’d rather have 43 houses with six affordable homes than the current derelict site which has been there for 10 years,” he said.

With the site for sale, it is unknown how long it will be before any development is seen.

“The worst case is that a land banker buys it and leaves it empty and sells it in 20 years,” said Mr Bird.

“In future, we will make sure the councillors on the committee hear our points and lobby them if we have to,” he added.

Christine Thurlow, corporate development manager for Babergh District Council, said: “There has been some concern from residents that the scheme didn’t achieve all they hoped but we had to balance everything.”

She confirmed that an agreement that sees any major increase in the value of the properties when sold – resulting in a percentage going to the council – would continue with the application if the site was sold.

The authority would not, however, see any benefit from any profits from the sale of the site itself.