Friends of Orford Community Interest Company

The Friends of Orford Community Interest Group is a Community Interest Company incorporated on 29th October 2019 following the announcement that the petrol garage, motor repair workshop and general store known as Friends Garage was to be sold and planning approval sought to build a mixed residential and commercial development.

The objects of the Company are to carry on activities which benefit the community and in particular (without limitation) to build and operate a retail fuel facility and to provide a grocery and general stores for the benefit of the community of Orford and the surrounding villages

The directors of the Company are:

Harry Cole

Nicholas Gold 

Sir Edward Greenwell

Mary-Anne Gribbon

The initial application for planning approval caused much concern in the village and a new plan has been circulated early in October 2021 to all residents for comments.

At a meeting of the Orford and Gedgrave Parish Council on Wednesday 13th October 2021 the councillors agreed to delegate responsibility for interacting with the planning consultant and the developer to the Friends of Orford Community Interest Company on behalf of the Parish Council and the local community. This web page will be regularly updated with details of this interaction.

The Friends of Orford Community Interest Group news

4th November 2021

Thank you everybody for your feedback, comments and help in responding to the recent plans proposed by Artisan for the Friends Garage site - .

The feedback we received was unanimous in its condemnation of this proposal, mostly for similar reasons to those outlined in our previous email - ‘ Friends Garage Update No.6 ‘.

We have taken all these comments on board and are working on a new proposal to make the best out of the available land. Once this has been approved with planners, highways, and the PC, we hope to reach agreement with the developer and/or owner of the site. At this point any proposal would be shared with the community again for your consideration and feedback.

As we are all aware, this process can take some time, but we will update you whenever there is a development of significance. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or questions, please get in touch.

Kind regards & many thanks,

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

14th October 2021

You may have seen the new proposed plans for the Friends Garage site, which can be viewed online at These plans are not the result of negotiations with our Community Interest Group and have come out of the blue, precipitated by the separate sale and development of the Seaforth House site adjacent to the commercial Friends Garage site. The Seaforth House plot had been a fundamental part of the project up to now and was the site earmarked for the shop and post office.  The removal of the Seaforth House site from the project means the plan and negotiations have to be started again and, therefore, these new plans should be viewed as the developer’s initial proposal, rather than a fait accompli or the results of the last 2 years + negotiations. 

The Friends Garage site retains its Community Asset status as a commercial site, and we anticipate continued full support from East Suffolk Coastal in ensuring that the commercial element of the site is protected. Any housing on the site is contingent on an acceptable commercial element – in this case a larger, workable village shop, post office and refuelling facility.

Our preliminary concerns regarding the proposals are as follows: 

  • The space proposed for the retail element is insufficient and unviable.
    • The shop is separated in two
    • The overall space is two-thirds or less than that previously agreed as necessary. It’s long term viability, including the retention of the Post Office, would therefore be in doubt.
    • The upper levels, which should be used for storage, are proposed to be used for affordable residential housing.  Apart from losing the space, such use would also make the retail property unattractive to an owner, a tenant and funders. 
    • Access to the affordable  housing appears to be through the shop.
    • Car parking for shoppers is wholly inadequate; especially as the Highways authority are likely to create double yellow lines along both sides of that section of Front Street
    • While the idea of selling petrol and diesel has been changed in anticipation of the future of diesel and petrol vehicles, the need for fast charging facilities will be critical and there appear to be no designated spaces for this. Such spaces will need to be separate from those used for shopping. In addition to charging points, space should ideally also be left for the supply of hydrogen for cars of the future. 
    • There seems to be no proper space for delivery vehicles which need to arrive, unload and exit safely. 
    •  Apart from trying to squeeze the commercial operations of the shop into an inadequate space, the proposed residential element is over-developed with the result that the cars of residents and their visitors will inevitably try to use the retail parking spaces. 
  • In addition to the parking and refuelling facilities being inadequate, we would be surprised if the expectations of the Highways Department are fulfilled by the current proposal. 
  • As a key commercial retail facility it should be of a size and sufficient viability to employ between 4 and 6 full time equivalent staff. This is critical to the preservation of the site as a village community asset. If it fails the viability test, it is likely that it will fail as a general store and the Post Office would also be lost, probably for good.
  • To make a comparison with the existing store is not sensible. That only survives and flourishes through the exceptional skill and dedication of the current owner and the team and cannot be expected from any operator. We are all very grateful for what they do.
  • In addition to above, the existing shop is reliant on the ability to use its outside space for the sale of fruit and vegetables. It is understood that is not without difficulty. 
  • While the existing garage site is unsightly, the proposed designs for the residences and shop are poor and uninspiring. Their facings and window design are more appropriate in a low cost urban setting, rather than a village noted for the charm of its built environment.

We encourage everyone to review and complete the questionnaire in light of the above.  If possible, can you also be kind enough to copy your responses to us so that we can attempt to gather a balanced view of the village for the purpose of further discussions with the developer and the planning authority.

Please do also let us know if you have any other suggestions, comments, or questions. It is critical that we all get this right. Comments can be made by email to harry [at] loomandlast [dot] com

Kind regards and many thanks,

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