Waveney Campus building 'uninspiring'

A �52.7m project to build a new council and science headquarters in Lowestoft could be given the go-ahead next week, despite one of the partners' own design teams hitting out at the way the building will look.

A �52.7m project to build a new council and science headquarters in Lowestoft could get the go-ahead next week, despite one of the project partners' design experts hitting out at the way the building will look.

Councillors gathering to vote on the Waveney Campus plans will be told the building is vital to the regenera-tion of Lowestoft's waterfront areas, but its design has divided opinion.

It has now emerged that Waveney District Council's design team has raised concerns about the appearance of the building, even though the local authority plans to move its own workforce to the site by the banks of Lake Lothing.

In a report prepared for members of Waveney's development control committee, the authority's design office states the "design is uninspir-ing and does not set an appropriate benchmark for subsequent development other than in terms of environmental performance".

Despite this, planning chiefs have recommended that councillors give the plans the go-ahead and pave the way for the construction of the campus, which will also be the new base for the Cefas marine science laboratory and officers from Suffolk County Council.

The Suffolk Preservation Society has also been critical of the design, although it has praised the development's green credentials.

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Mike Coleman, chairman of the society's Waveney branch, said: "We do feel the design is a bit bland and it could have been so much better. It looks more like a factory than anything else and I feel it ought to have looked a bit more in keeping with a public building."

A Waveney District Council spokesman stressed that the 1st East Urban Regeneration Company, which is overseeing redevelopment of Lowestoft's waterfront areas, and an independent design panel had praised the design of the campus.

He added: "Councils employ design officers to provide a view on applica-tions that a planning authority receives. They are tasked with assessing design proposals and are a helpful 'critical friend' through the planning process. Nevertheless, design is a subjective business and these comments merely reflect one point of view among many."

The campus will house 1,000 staff and its designers have lauded its green credentials, saying it will offer low energy and water consumption, rainwater harvest and use sustainable materials.

It had been due to open by the autumn of 2010, but has been delayed after work was suspended for several weeks last year because of the ongoing local government review, which could see Lowestoft governed by a new council. However, all potential successor authorities committed themselves to the project, allowing it to resume.

Wendy Mawer, Waveney's cabinet member for regeneration, said: "I believe we are creating a building that Lowestoft can be proud of."

The full application will be heard at Lowestoft Town Hall from 6pm next Wednesday, January 21.