Friends Garage site update

Posted on March 29, 2021

Friends of Orford Community Interest Company

an update on the Garage

Hello to you all.

It is just over a year since we last reported on the state of negotiations on Friends Garage and it is now well over two years since the garage closed.

As you may be aware, a group has had protracted negotiations with Tom Massey and a proposed developer, who has an option over the land, to try to purchase part of the site to be developed as a fuel outlet and an area for a much more spacious village shop. The rest of the site would be used for residential housing. Detailed plans for the retail site have been agreed with East Suffolk Council, SCC Highways, the Fire Officer and Petroleum Officer. An architect and contractor have also been briefed.

By way of background, most of the garage site is designated as ‘commercial’ for planning purposes. It has also been registered by the Parish Council as an Asset of Community Value, to be used for the benefit of the village. East Suffolk Council is adamant that, as the site is protected by two key planning policies, being a community asset and a site of local employment, it will only consider an application for a change of use for some of the land to be used for residential purposes if part of it is developed as a retail site for community purposes.

‘Friends of Orford Community Interest Company’, which is a special type of entity that exists only to benefit the community rather than private shareholders, has been set up specifically for this purpose.

We would dearly love to get moving on this, but we need to be sure that the project can go ahead within a reasonable time frame so that we can make a start on both the substantial fund-raising needed and the development itself.

It has recently become clear that we would not be able to do anything until the developer has obtained the residential planning permission for the rest of the site, dealt with the demolition of the existing buildings and decontaminated the whole site. All this could take up to another eighteen months before building work could actually start, and we cannot start fundraising until resolutions of all these issues are certain. ESC has also made it clear that it requires certainty that the retail development will actually happen before granting full residential permission for the rest of the site.

Although difficult, we still believe that it is possible to find an alternative solution which would benefit the community while at the same time allowing everyone else to achieve their objectives. We remain hopeful that at the end of it all, the village will have a garage and greatly improved shop. Talks are ongoing and we will be in touch again as soon as there is a significant update.

Ian Watkins, Edward Greenwell, Harry Cole, Nicholas Gold and Mary-Anne Gribbon