Multi-million pound plans for new recreational and community use at former council depot

Proposals to create a new recreational and community use on part of a disused site in Bury St Edmunds, particularly supporting young people, is due to be discussed.

West Suffolk Council are due to discuss the plans for the Olding Road site at its meeting on Tuesday, July 16.

The proposals include putting a recreational and community use, subject to planning for change of use, in the former depot.

This, together with the existing skatepark and surrounding college and neighbouring leisure centre (which the council is also looking to invest in), will support the council’s strategic priority of thriving communities – especially targeted for young people.

The warehouse section (former NHS supplies building) will be altered for uses in support of the local economy and sustainable growth, while the baling shed will be retained and refurbished for council storage use (subject to obtaining planning permission).

Currently the site is costing the council £300,000 a year in holding costs, including security. The proposals would not only stop this cost but carry out much needed works such as replacing the roof and removal of fuel tanks as well as clearing up of contamination from previous historic uses of the site.

A provisional proposal has been received for a trampoline and virtual reality experience use within the former depot, whilst it is proposed that the remaining site is marketed for permitted employment uses and/or a storage and distribution use (subject to acceptable highways movements) within the existing lawful use.

In addition, other uses could be pursued that fall within the planning allocation set out in the emerging Local Plan. The end use will be led by the greatest links to the council’s strategic priorities and/or market demand.

The recommended option has a total project cost of up to £7 million, which includes the £1 million already agreed in the previous decision on the Western Way Development (WWD) project in September 2023.

This option is showing a potential initial break even position after borrowing (over 10 years) with a net return after borrowing expected as market rents increase during that period and the life of the building extended beyond 10 years.

This follows the decision by the council last September not to continue with the Western Way Project. This was due to the additional financial risks such a large investment brought, especially during a time of uncertainty over council funding and the current cost of living crisis.

The council will also hear about a £8.26 million investment in maintaining, refurbishing and improving the Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre.

Diane Hind, cabinet member for Resources, said: “The proposal for the Olding Road site in Bury St Edmunds, with the potential interest from a trampoline and virtual reality facilities, fits in with the surrounding college, skatepark and leisure facilities helping support this as a destination area for young people.

“At the same time the proposals supply opportunities for business use helping bring a package which boosts our strategic priorities of thriving communities and sustainable growth.

“This is fiscally sensible, as it reduces current costs to the council and fixes issues with the current building including the roof and historic contamination on the site. The assumption being it can pay for itself within 10 years and bringing an income thereafter.

“We also know that the market is very changeable at the moment and the proposal means we can also be flexible with what will happen to the site in the future.”

The options appraisal has considered a wide variety of potential uses and development options to meet the council’s strategic priorities whilst balanced against:

  • o Retaining ownership of the site for longer term opportunities in the delivery of the council’s strategic priorities;
  • o Providing short term flexibility to meet a challenging and changing economic market;
  • o Need for financial certainty, lower capital investment options, income certainty and reduction of ongoing holding costs;
  • o Remediation of the site due to the age of the structure and materials and addressing any contamination caused by previous historic uses; and
  • o Planning regulations and guidance.

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