Major plans unveiled with new vision for vacant factory site in Lowestoft
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Major plans to transform a vacant factory site in south Lowestoft with a new retail and leisure development were showcased this week.
The Journal can today reveal that a proposed £9.3 million redevelopment scheme has been earmarked for the former Zephyr Cams site on one of the main approaches to town.
A 'successful' public consultation event was held on Monday – with proposals on display at an exhibition run by Metropolitan Properties (Investments) Limited, part of the Freshwater Group.
Here details of their proposals for a new retail development on the former factory site in Tower Road were unveiled – with the potential for the creation of up to 200 jobs locally and about 150 to 200 construction jobs.
In 2008, The Journal reported on how this site had been a 'regeneration priority', but after years of mooted interest and the site remaining derelict, new life could be breathed into the former Zephyr Cams building at Pakefield.
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The £9.3 million redevelopment of this site will include the demolition of the large two-storey factory building, which has been derelict for more than 12 years, with seven retail and leisure units – ranging from 1,500 sq ft to 30,000 sq ft – being installed to form an extension to the existing Tower Retail Park.
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.
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With this week's exhibition held to explain how and why the scheme had come about, plans of the redevelopment proposal were on display. The consultation event also gave the chance for stakeholders and local residents to see the progress of the scheme to date and discuss their priorities for the site, as well as any concerns.
A spokesman said: 'The event was well attended by local stake-holders and the majority of views received about the scheme were exceptionally positive.
'Most people acknowledged that the site had become a considerable eyesore in the area and were keen to see investment in the site. There was also an acknowledgement that this site represented a good opportunity for additional retail development, which would compliment that which already exists on Tower Retail Park.'
Yesterday, Mark Newton – on behalf of Metropolitan Properties (Investments) Limited – said: 'We believe this site represents a great opportunity to enhance an important gateway site on one of the main roads into Lowestoft and in doing so create a sustainable redevelopment scheme which will provide additional retail stores to serve the needs of the local area. We were extremely pleased with the support received at the consultation event and are looking forward to moving the scheme forward'.
With the site extending to about 4.9 acres (two hectares) an application is likely to be submitted to Waveney District Council later this year, or early next year, for planning permission to 'transform this long derelict site into an exciting retail and leisure development.'
The spokesman added: 'In the event that planning permission is ultimately granted the construction phase will also create an additional 100 to 150 jobs and generate a £26m boost to the local economy.'
The scheme has already attracted interest from national retailers, with Aldi and The Range having both committed to the site to date – while discussions with other national retailers and café/restaurant operators are ongoing.
Adam Ward, property director – Aldi, said: 'Lowestoft is an important area for Aldi and for some time we have been looking to open a second store to serve our customers to the south. This site adjacent to Tower Retail Park represents a great opportunity to regenerate a long derelict site and we are excited to be part of that project.'
Also speaking about the scheme, Chris Dawson, owner and founder of The Range, said: 'The Range have waited a long time for a suitable site in Lowestoft and we are keen to open a large superstore with garden centre and family café to serve local customers who currently have to travel a significant distance to our nearest store.'
Last night, Waveney District Council's deputy leader, Stephen Ardley, said: 'It is still very early days and any applications would need to go through the formal planning process to ensure they are both viable and right Lowestoft. However I am hugely encouraged that, once again, we have developers showing a real interest in Lowestoft and that we have some genuine enthusiasm for developing land that has been empty and disused for so long.
'The kind of high profile retail outlets that would look to utilise this development do not usually occupy town centre sites and, in my view, would offer something different rather than direct competition. It would bring jobs and it would make Lowestoft a more attractive retail proposition.'
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