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Diggers, a new sign, but still derelict

PUBLISHED: 20:29 31 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:40 05 July 2010

A REGENERATION priority….a possible location for the Waveney Campus….but after years of mooted interest, a site in Lowestoft still remains derelict.

On one of the main approaches to town, the former Zephyr Cams building at Pakefield sits unused, with faded signs and paintwork, overgrown grass and signs of damage dominating the area.

A REGENERATION priority….a possible location for the Waveney Campus….but after years of mooted interest, a site in Lowestoft still remains derelict.

On one of the main approaches to town, the former Zephyr Cams building at Pakefield sits unused, with faded signs and paintwork, overgrown grass and signs of damage dominating the area.

Six-and-a-half years on from the closure of the engineering firm, who employed around 100 people in town, all that is left are memories from the past depicted by vacant premises.

The Zephyr Cams factory, which has been empty ever since the company closed down in March 2002, faces the main A12 gateway for visitors travelling north towards Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

But despite interest from various firms in the months that followed the factory's closure, there has been no sign of a new name taking over the land.

In recent weeks however there has been a buzz of anticipation around the area. With a construction sign appearing at the site, and rumours around south Lowestoft that a major retail name was supposedly interested, expectations have been raised. And this week, diggers were moving debris from inside the building into skips.

However, these seem to have been unfounded. Waveney District Council spokesman Julie Fitzgerald told The Journal: “The site is let on a 99-year ground lease from 1972, and as such the site is outside the council's control.

“The council is in receipt of rental income. But we won't have anything to update (on the building) until - if and when - the council's tenant makes an approach for any approval under the lease.”

After going into administrative receivership in October 2001, the writing was on the wall for the workforce. An auction of the troubled company's remaining assets brought the closure to a sad end as the curtain came down on 80-years of service in the town in 2002.

Prior to liquidation, the Zephyr factory had been taken over in 1997 by New Jersey based WH Industries, but the “loss of key customers” was blamed for their demise.

At the time, Waveney MP Bob Blizzard lambasted the situation and was scathing in his criticism of the firm's American owners - labelling Zephyr's closure as being down to “scandalous management.”

In 2004, The Journal revealed how there was a potential ray of light over the horizon when councillors earmarked the derelict factory as “a regeneration priority.”

With council members admitting they wanted the site to be redeveloped, speaking at the time Wendy Mawer - the then portfolio holder for regeneration - said it was important the council-owned land was put to good use.

“It's the entrance for most people particularly strangers to the town when they come here,” she said. “It's going to be at the top of the relief road and it should be somewhere that should typify what we stand for.”

Despite this - and the subsequent opening of the £30m South Lowestoft Relief Road in 2006 - there has been no signs of development at the factory.

The Journal can however reveal that when the council looked into sites for the £52.7m Waveney Campus project - the state-of-the-art administrative and scientific complex to house 1,000 staff from Cefas, Waveney and Suffolk County council - the area around Zephyr Cams was looked at.

“South Lowestoft was considered as a possible location for the campus,” a council spokesman said.

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