Objections flood in

PUBLISHED: 10:27 30 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:30 05 July 2010

A FLAGSHIP project to create a landmark office and scientific complex in Lowestoft took “an important step in the right direction” this week - but a major hurdle is still in its way.

A FLAGSHIP project to create a landmark office and scientific complex in Lowestoft took “an important step in the right direction” this week - but a major hurdle is still in its way.

The £52.7m Waveney Campus project received a boost on Wednesday when Waveney District Councillors unanimously approved plans to raise the level of the site.

However, the scheme to build a new administrative and state-of-the-art scientific complex that will house 1,000 staff in Riverside Road was thrown into doubt by objections from the Environment Agency over the potential for flood risk.

A heated debate ensued at the council's development control committee meeting, after last minute objections from the Environment Agency were received - meaning building work cannot go ahead.

And if the agency continues to refuse applications, it could ultimately mean no development is allowed on Lowestoft's flood plain - quashing millions of pounds of regeneration work, which is being planned by the Urban Regeneration Company 1st East.

But despite this setback, councillors approved the plans to lift the Waveney Campus site out of the reach of potential flood waters on the banks of Lake Lothing, on the basis that officers would work with the agency to resolve further issues.

Yesterday Waveney District Council - who will move their base to the campus site in sharing the new complex with Suffolk County Council and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas) marine science laboratory - revealed the proposed development to transform an area of waterfront into an attractive area was still on target.

Ken Sale, portfolio holder for the environment, exclusively told The Journal: “Wednesday night's meeting was robust and challenging and so it should be given the importance of this project in the wider context of Lowestoft's regeneration.

“I am pleased that a number of key issues and concerns were addressed and the unanimous decision to approve the raising of the site is an important step in the right direction.

“The Environment Agency has a difficult job to do and have a responsibility to protect Lowestoft, its residents and businesses from flooding. But we have been working closely with them to address their concerns and it is our intention to resolve them as quickly as possible,” he added.

“Some of their concerns do not actually relate to this specific application and the sooner that these issues are resolved, the better.”

With the campus project's proposed plans seen as complementing the major investment already underway in Lowestoft, it's development “will act as a catalyst for attracting jobs and stimulating wider regeneration,” according to the three partners involved in the scheme.

And by linking in with 1st East, this regeneration will see new homes, business sites, restaurants, marine leisure opportunities and construction jobs appearing in the town.

However, consultant planning officer Tony Bowhill warned councillors at Wednesday's meeting: “If the Environment Agency are to maintain objections into the future it will mean the whole Urban Regeneration Company area is affected and it could lead to no development being allowed.”

He said the council was “shooting at a moving target” in the face of an ever-stricter approach to flood risk. He added that he thought the problems could be resolved, but that it could take longer than planned.

Kirkley councillor Gifford Baxter said: “This seems to be a pretty serious impediment to the campus.” Beccles councillor Chris Punt said: “This site is very important to the whole future of development in Lowestoft.”

The Environment Agency also says moving contaminated soil could pollute water supplies. Worlingham councillor Alan Duce said: “Why has it got to this late stage for contamination to come up? We love taking on consultants who seem to keep falling short… There is a team in charge of this project. Where have they been, asleep?”

But Andrew Verney, campus sponsor at the council, said this was unfair. “We have done a lot of work. We have examined the soil in 100 different places across the site,” he said. “This level of detail was not submitted to the Environment Agency because this application does not involve disturbing the soil in that way. “Confusion seems to have arisen at the Environment Agency between this work and the actual building work,” said Mr Verney.

The council yesterday confirmed that a full planning application for the project will be submitted at “a later date.”

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