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Newmarket councillor calls for sport and recreation centre to replace plan for 50 homes

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A councillor has called for plans to build 50 homes on the site of a former Newmarket middle school to be ditched in favour of developing the land as a sport and recreation centre for the town.

Newmarket town councillor Douglas Hall was speaking following the presentation of a development brief prepared for the 11-acre site in Fordham Road, which is owned by Suffolk County Council.

Part of the land has been allocated for housing in West Suffolk District Council’s local plan, the blueprint for how areas are developed, and Rob Hancock, who is responsible for residential development on county council land across Suffolk, told town councillors on Monday that housing was one of the authority’s top priorities.

St Felix site, Newmarket
St Felix site, Newmarket

The housing planned would be private and sold on the open market, with just 10 per cent – five properties – being classed as affordable.

At the meeting, Cllr Hall, who is chairman of the council’s finance and policy committee, said: “We have a very limited supply of land available for public use in Newmarket and I am not sure why we have to have houses, as permission has recently been given for 400 just across the road. Yes, we have the George Lambton playing field but the council does not own that, it is only leased.”

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Hall said that after looking at aerial photographs of the town, he was shocked at how much land had been lost.

“I am not anti-development but it would be wrong to waste the opportunity we have of having a recreational public space the town could be proud of,” he said. “Newmarket has a very successful running club, but, unlike Bury St Edmunds, the town doesn’t have a running track.

“This site has so much potential and to cover a large part of it with housing would be a mistake because once it is built on we can never get it back.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to developing a sports hub for Newmarket. We don’t want people to have to go out of town for these facilities we want to keep people in Newmarket.”

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