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Councillor calls on Sudbury community to rally together and campaign to retain Delphi Diesel Systems site for industrial use following land sale

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Plans to sell one of Sudbury’s largest industrial sites to a property developer have been described as “a betrayal of the community” by a local councillor, who called on the town to fight back.

Sudbury was rocked by the shock revelation last week that Delphi Diesel Systems plans to sell its site in Newton Road to Charterhouse Property Group, which intends to clear the site for remedial works, meaning hundreds of jobs could be lost permanently.

The announcement was heavily criticised by the MP for South Suffolk, James Cartlidge, and the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, who say it is vital for the site to remain as industrial land, particularly due to the loss of other major employers in the area, such as Philips Avent in Glemsford.

Jack Owen, Suffolk county councillor for Sudbury, at the Delphi Diesel Systems plant in Sudbury. (14846116)
Jack Owen, Suffolk county councillor for Sudbury, at the Delphi Diesel Systems plant in Sudbury. (14846116)

This week, Sudbury town and county councillor Jack Owen, who also worked at Delphi for 37 years, said he is now working to build support for a community campaign to ensure the site is not lost to a residential development.

The Labour councillor said protecting industry is as important as Sudbury’s previous battles to save the local health centre and fire service, stating residents must stand up and fight as they did then.

“There will be a hell of a fight,” he told the Free Press. “I just can’t accept that Sudbury is going to stand idly by and allow this prime industrial area to turn into homes.

“Whilst Delphi have been very generous in their redundancy package to their employees, they have totally betrayed not only their workforce, but the whole community, by proposing to sell the Sudbury site to Charterhouse, which, as a speculative business, will undoubtedly want to make the most profit.

“If Sudbury people stand back, I believe it will end in disaster. There are a number of battles in Suffolk that have been won because the community have felt so strongly and, if Sudbury people show that same resolve, I think we can be successful.”

Prior to the sale announcement, an options appraisal by consultants Carter Jonas concluded that a commercial development would be more viable for the Delphi site than a residential scheme.

The South Suffolk Taskforce has also stated there had been interest from an electric car maker to purchase the plant, in order to use it to manufacture components.

Cllr Owen, who was employed at Delphi between 1963 and 2000, and also had a number of family members and friends who worked there, said he agreed with South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge that the land must be retained for industrial use.

He added that he would be petitioning Babergh District Council to include this provision in its joint local plan, to send a clear message to Charterhouse that the site is not suitable or available for housing.

“We have to make sure that Babergh District Council stands firm to maintain that policy,” he said. “If they allow development of houses on that site, quite apart from the loss of industrial land and community amenities, it would set the Chilton Woods development back at least a couple of years.

“You just can’t keep building houses in a place where there aren’t enough good-quality jobs. People just aren’t going to move here.

“The important thing is there are some skilled people at Delphi who may have got temporary jobs elsewhere, in the hope they could get better-paid work back in Sudbury later. Now they feel that hope is gone.

“It’s not party political. Our concern is for our young people and making sure they can have a decent life and job in Sudbury.”

Mr Cartlidge has also called on Babergh’s planning committee to reject any application for a residential development on the Delphi site, and he stated he would have no hesitation in contacting the Secretary of State to call-in any planning appeal related to the land.