Friend’s Garage site development update

Posted on February 20, 2019

14th April 2019

Hello friends of Friends,

It’s been a while since the last update, so we wanted to outline the situation at the Friends Garage site.

Despite the gloomy sight of Friends Garage, there’s plenty going on behind the scenes on a daily basis. Negotiations for the purchase of a plot of land suitable for a filling station and shop on Front Street are well under way and a price has been agreed. This is a great milestone but it’s still early days. If things go very well, the filling station may be running by Christmas and the shop by Easter 2020 or shortly thereafter. Negotiations are proving time consuming and quite complex. The complexity is not just over the sale of the land but also around the developer’s requirements, planning, building & safety regulations and the plethora of potential suppliers involved in such a project including forecourt contractors, builders, East Suffolk Council, Highways and Suffolk Country Council. It is worth stating that East Suffolk Planning Department has been very helpful and responsive throughout, and we believe they are sympathetic to the requirement that Orford has for a filling station and retail operation.

The basic design plans for the fuel pumps and shop have been agreed subject to statutory planning and, assuming all the other pieces of the plan fit into place, we’re excited that we will have something to be pleased with as a community. We hope to be able to present plans to everyone via the Parish Council at some stage in the coming weeks. We do not see a MOT and mechanical workshop as being a part of this plan because it is not viable to service complex modern cars to compete with main dealers’ MOT and service facilities considering the investment required. Many of us would have preferred the Friends Garage we knew before, but we think this will be a good outcome for all members of the community.

We estimate that the total cost of the project will be approximately £650,000 and we are looking at various potential external sources of funding, but will in due course need grants, loans or donations from local people, many of whom already offered to help when Friends Garage closed. When we have our structure organised (a Community Interest Company we expect) we will launch an appeal for funds.

There will be further email updates as developments unfold. Thanks for your continued interest and support.

Ian Watkins, Edward Greenwell, Nicholas Gold & Harry Cole.

19th February 2019

FRIENDS GARAGE – an update

The proposed developer of the Friends garage site, Mike North, has formally withdrawn the planning application DC/18/5246/FUL lodged in December. This must in large part be in response to the overwhelming response of those who submitted their views to the Council planners and/or signed the petition calling for the application to be refused. It has been a great team effort and has certainly made our collective concerns about the site’s future very clear at Suffolk Coastal Council and its Planning Department.

Alongside that response, a group of Orford residents (Ian Watkins, Nick Gold, Edward Greenwell and Harry Cole) have been working to set up a Community Interest Company (or a similar entity) to retain a fuel and retail outlet of reasonable size and layout on the site. They have been in discussion with Mike North and Tom Massey (the owner) about a revised proposal that retains this key commercial facility and provides a larger area for a fuel pump and for an enhanced retail space, accessed off Front Street. These discussions have been useful so far, and we hope that in due course a revised proposal will emerge leading to a planning application which provides what the community needs.

We hope to agree terms for the acquisition of the required part of the site in the near future. We would then progress plans for the exact layout and appearance of this new village asset. From this a business plan would be developed, which would form the basis to seek funding to make this opportunity a reality. A number of people have already offered their generous support and the idea is that this key community asset should in future be held for the benefit of those in Orford and the surrounding villages.

There will be more updates to follow at significant moments via this newsletter, the Village Voice and communications from the Parish Council.

Harry Cole