Suffolk Coastal District Council has stepped in to buy a strategically significant parcel of property in central Leiston – to safeguard the local Neighbourhood Plan.
The property, just off Leiston’s High Street, was due to come up for sale at auction. However, the site is integral to the delivery of the Leiston Neighbourhood Plan’s ‘vision’ to revitalise the town centre, by creating a new ‘hub’ made up of community, commercial and residential uses.
“While the ‘vision’ to revitalise Leiston town centre does face some challenges, it is still being actively promoted and pursued by Leiston Town Council and ourselves,” explained Cllr Stuart Lawson, Suffolk Coastal’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for Resources.
“If the site had been sold to an owner, who was not willing to cooperate in the delivery of this vision, it would obviously have made any further progress on this initiative impossible. So, Suffolk Coastal stepped in to buy the land and safe guard these aspirations for the future.”
Suffolk Coastal District Council purchased the freehold of 16 to 22a Sizewell Road, Leiston, which is made up of an area of about 0.5 acres and incorporating 4 retail units fronting Sizewell Road at a cost of £225,000.
The site neighbours on to an existing site, which is also owned by Suffolk Coastal. The Council will be reviewing the options on their combined landholding over the coming months in conjunction with other local stakeholders, with a view to delivering on the Neighbourhood Plan objective for a revitalised town centre.
“There was a real risk that, if the site had been bought by a speculative developer intent on holding out for a high density residential planning consent, the buildings fronting Sizewell Road could have been allowed to deteriorate and adversely affect the look of this section of the town,” said Cllr Lawson.
“Suffolk Coastal taking over the ownership allows us to manage this risk. The site also abuts other property owned by the council, so this allows us to look at developing this entire central area, which could be strategically important to our ability to revitalise the town.”
“Hopefully, by taking this bold action now, we can now work with the town council and local people to develop the idea of having a sustainable solution that meets the needs of the local community, with a market place, car parking, new homes, retail and potentially leisure use.”
In the short-term, Suffolk Coastal intends to invest in refurbishing the retail units at 20-22a Sizewell Road in order to bring them back into use. This will improve the streetscape in the area, while a more comprehensive, longer term redevelopment plan can be worked up.