Last week, Labour-run Ipswich Borough Council purchased the former British Sugar site at Sproughton. Council Leader and Parliamentary Candidate, David Ellesmere sets out why.
When British Sugar pulled out of its Sproughton site in 2001, I doubt many people thought it would still be vacant and derelict thirteen years later.
However disputes over planning matters - should it be used for housing or employment? - and the state of the economy have conspired to leave it undeveloped.
It clearly will be built on at some point. It is one of the most important strategic employment sites in the region due to its size and good transport links. If it is fully developed it could generate hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs.
At 130 acres, it is a huge area of land and whatever happens here will have a big impact on Ipswich. Yet because of the out-of-date borough boundary, it is officially located outside Ipswich. So we would have no say about what does on there.
If Babergh District Council decided to allow a large out-of-town retail development - which could have a devastating effect on the town centre - we’d not be able to do anything about it.
This is one of the reasons the council has decided to buy the land. If it is owned by the council then we can control what goes on there.
The other reason is that we think we can get it moving quicker. The council has a number of potential advantages over the private developers who have failed to develop the site. We don’t need to wait to sign up one or two large occupiers before starting work; we can access finance cheaper and we don’t necessarily have the same expectations of profit levels.
Our confidence that we will be able to find occupiers seems to be borne out - we’ve already had a number of people get in touch who are interested in the site.
This is a long term project and it is not without risks but purchasing the land was definitely the right thing to do for Ipswich.