In November 2017 Mid Suffolk District Council vacated its old offices at 131 High Street, Needham Market. Following this we have been hard at work on plans for the future of the site. At public exhibitions on 4 April and 10 April 2018 we were displaying these redevelopment plans and answering your questions.
The proposals for the site have been drawn up by Mid Suffolk District Council, working with Purcell Architects and the Lawson Planning Partnership to propose a new future for the site. You can find the details below, or view the full exhibition boards that will be displayed at our public events here.
We at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils began working together in 2011, creating a shared workforce and a single Chief Executive to serve both councils. From 2011 to 2017 this workforce operated out of two HQ buildings, in Needham Market and in Hadleigh.
In 2016 Mid Suffolk District Councillors made the decision to relocate from these buildings to Endeavour House in Ipswich, creating a single HQ sharing space with other public sector bodies, while continuing to deliver services within the district, including at a new public access point in Stowmarket.
The decision was in part a result of appraisals of the Needham Market site, which showed that the buildings were no longer fit for purpose to fulfil local government functions. The reasons for this included barriers to redesign, such as listed building status, and poor connections to vital utilities. The cost of mitigating this and bringing the buildings up to modern office standards would have been prohibitive.
Instead, as a result of the move to Endeavour House, Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils will save an estimated £5.8 million over the next decade in HQ costs, allowing that money to be reinvested in council services.
With the offices vacant a design and planning team has focused on the regeneration and redevelopment of the site, informed by soft market testing to identify suitable uses and options. This work has confirmed that demand for commercial office space at this location is extremely limited, with no demand from providers of care homes for this location.
The former offices are a unique site, with both opportunities offered and constraints imposed by it’s location. The opportunities include:
However any plans to seize these opportunities must be balanced by the constraints, including:
Two options have been considered for the site, consisting of a 100% residential development, and a mixed residential and retail development, each striking a difference balance, with associated Masterplans drawn up.
The proposals the Council are considering would see much of the existing offices – the non-listed buildings in particular – demolished and a new development built in their place and on the former office car park. This would comprise:
The exact mix of houses and apartments is unknown, as there are also plans being considered to include a retail unit on the site, on the west of Hurstlea Road. Whether this option was developed, or a purely residential option instead, would determine the total number of dwellings.
These proposals would bring a vacant brownfield site back into use and allow the listed building to remain in place, and enhance its setting and significance, along with high quality housing, designed in sympathy with the local character.
They also include provision of public parking, and enhanced pedestrian access to the High Street, including retention and management of the existing greenspace associated with the duck pond for the town.
These options will not appear overnight: there is still considerable work to be done on each, including public engagement and listening to the feedback we receive.
Over the coming months work will begin on deciding how the development can be delivered. The next stage, once this work is complete, will be for Planning and Listed Building Applications to be submitted for the site: this is expected to be in late summer 2018.
In addition to the engagement currently being undertaken, the Applications will include planning consultation, allowing residents and stakeholders to comment on the plans and have their views considered by Mid Suffolk District Council’s Development Control Committee.