MP angry over failed offices plan

Hayley MaceAn MP has lambasted council chiefs for wasting �1.3m of public cash on plans for an 'ill-considered' development project which has been abandoned.Hayley Mace

An MP has lambasted council chiefs for wasting �1.3m of public cash on plans for an 'ill-considered' development project which has been abandoned.

The multi-million-pound Waveney Campus was supposed to provide a building to house hundreds of council and science laboratory staff on the banks on Lake Lothing in Lowestoft, but the proposals were suddenly scrapped on Friday.

Waveney District Council, the lead partner for the project alongside Suffolk County Council and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), had already spent �1.3m on plans for the campus, including compulsory land purchases.

Now Waveney MP Bob Blizzard has slammed the council for spending so much on a development which will never see the light of day.

He said: 'I have always thought that the campus was an ill-considered project. The tragedy is that Waveney taxpayers have paid �1.3m for this and there's absolutely nothing to show for it.

'The spectacle of spending the best part of �60m on new offices while people are hard-pressed and trying to protect frontline services was really never going to be accepted by the council tax payers.

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'I have never really detected much public support for what was fundamentally going to be some fancy office buildings.'

He added: 'It is a mess, quite frankly. I think it is scandalous and there will quite rightly be public outrage.'

Waveney Labour group leader John Shanahan said: 'There is no way Waveney council can justify spending �1.3m on this failed project. People are going to get poorer services and increased fees and charges to pay for something which hasn't worked out.'

The two councils and Cefas announced late on Friday that 'challenging economic conditions' had made the project's future too uncertain and that the partnership was being dissolved, leaving a question mark over the future of the Cefas laboratories in Lowestoft.

However, Mr Blizzard said he had already spoken to Defra minister Huw Irranca-Davies, who has given his reassurance that Cefas, which employs about 400 people, is planning to stay in the town.

Mr Blizzard said: 'My interest now is in Cefas and making sure that they stay here. Retaining the laboratories and the skilled jobs is the most important thing.'

The East of England Development Agency is also working with Cefas to help secure the centre's future in the town.

A spokesman for the campus project said that Cefas was considering its alternatives in Lowestoft 'as a matter of urgency', including using the campus idea and building a smaller-scale facility on the same land, or investing in the existing laboratories on Kensington Road. The councils are going to look for alternative accommodation in Lowestoft.

He said: 'We have all worked hard to make our partnership work but economic conditions have conspired against us. We are very pleased Cefas is considering its options here in Lowestoft.

'We all agree that building a Cefas facility at Riverside Road, albeit on a smaller scale, capitalises on the investment that has already been made and supports regeneration in the area.'