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Go-ahead for over 130 homes at former council offices and middle school site in Needham Market

By Jason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter

Work on two redundant sites in Needham Market is to begin in the next 18 months after planners gave the green light for more than 130 new homes.

The former Mid Suffolk District Council offices in High Street will be turned into 94 homes and a convenience shop, while the former Needham Middle School grounds are to be the site of 41 new properties.

The two applications, which were both submitted by the district council, were given the go ahead at the council’s planning referrals committee on Wednesday, February 27.

An artist's impressions of the proposed development at the former Mid Suffolk District Council offices at 131 High Street, Needham Market.
An artist's impressions of the proposed development at the former Mid Suffolk District Council offices at 131 High Street, Needham Market.

Councillor Jill Wilshaw, Mid Suffolk’s cabinet member for housing, said: “These housing permissions are good news for our district: not only do these plans bring two disused sites back into use, they will provide much needed housing in the town, with a mix that will provide affordable housing for those on the lowest incomes as well as those purchasing at market rate.

“The commitment to deliver a new library and retail facilities, along with the work to safeguard historic buildings on both sites, means these plans strike the right balance.”

While firm dates for work starting have not been given, council bosses said they anticipate that spades would be in the ground within 18 months.

Concerns were raised that just 10 per cent of the former council HQ development was designated affordable housing – well below the benchmark 35 per cent in the council’s own planning policies – but with all 41 of the middle school homes being affordable, it was considered acceptable.

The designs were also praised, described as 'fresh' and 'modern' by committee members.

The proposed access for the middle school site via the narrow junctions and changes to plans originally tabled since its closure in 2015 led to a swathe of public opposition.

Around 60 public objections were received alongside that of Needham Market Town Council, with the main issues around narrow paths and roads causing safety problems for pedestrians, and the proximity of some homes to the community centre.

Mark Allen, from Create Consulting, represented the town council at the committee and said: “I cannot see how it’s concluded in the transport statement that it’s considered acceptable from a highways perspective.”

But the committee heard that while access concerns were not unfounded, any use for the site would generate some traffic and that the designation of 100 per cent of the homes as affordable meant it contributed to the district’s much needed supply.

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