Back to square one as plans fall through Newmarket's historic Queensbury Lodge
The sorry saga of Queensbury Lodge, which Newmarket ’s mayor described this week as a problem that had ‘plagued’ the town for more than 30 years, looks set to continue.
Members of the town council’s planning committee were shocked to hear at their meeting on Monday from Stephen Walsh, representing property developer Bill Gredley, that the proposal they had outlined to them back in June which promised to restore the historic listed building to its original use as a racing yard, had been dropped.
That restoration formed part of a much larger proposal for a site including the town’s former swimming pool, the former White Lion pub and paddocks which originally formed part of Fitzroy Stables, on which permission was being sought for 123 homes, shared workspace offices, a central public square and a children’s play area.
Councillors had welcomed that scheme as a way out of the impasse the district planning authority and Mr Gredley had found themselves in since 1985.
But Mr Walsh told them a plan for a different scheme had now been submitted. He said the developer had held a meeting with West Suffolk officers on June 23 when he said: “We felt that the agreement that we had understood we had reached wasn’t there. Officers were no longer willing to support the scheme put forward.”
Mr Walsh told members that Mr Gredley had, as a result, resigned as the sole director of Oftenfact Ltd, the company which owns Queensbury Lodge, meaning it could revert to the Crown.
Cllr Andy Drummond said: “Tonight’s scheme is not the scheme that came forward on June 15. Queensbury Lodge is not included. West Suffolk Council has served an urgent works notice on the building and it will spend £100,000 on it to stop it falling down.”
He said according to the local plan the site had an allocation of 50 new homes. The extra 73 were being considered to meet the cost of the restoration of Queensbury Lodge.
“That original scheme was compliant and all Mr Gredley had to do was be compliant,” said Cllr Drummond. “It was a scheme Newmarket deserved and wanted.”
And Town mayor Cllr Michael Jefferys said: “I can only say I am extremely disappointed.”
Cllr Jefferys added: “I thought we had found a solution to a problem that has plagued the town for 30 plus years. We now end up in a situation where the sorry story still continues. I am speechless. The application before us does not allow for the renovation of Queenbury Lodge which we always felt was part of the application.”
Cllr Rachel Hood added: “I am really, really, disappointed that this town has had Queensbury Lodge in a derelict state for closer to 40 years. There was a scheme giving the developer a lot of extra housing to stop further deterioration.”
After the meeting, Cllr Drummond told the Journal: “We had to justify why we were looking at over double the housing allocation for this site. I would like Mr Gredley to take this scheme off the table and re-present the original scheme he brought to Newmarket Town Council on June 15 which would have seen Queensbury Lodge restored to its original use as a starter racing yard. He would also need to re-join Oftenfact Ltd as a director.
“I want Mr Gredley to realise that this situation is recoverable and that we could get this original scheme, which had been welcomed by the town council as a way to get round the impasse which has existed for nearly 40 years.”