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Proposals for extension to Clopton Business Park refused as councillors say there's 'no proof' businesses would take up units

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Plans to extend an East Suffolk business park that could create more than 130 new jobs have been turned down amid uncertainty over what will actually be built there.

Oasis Property Ltd lodged plans to turn a 1.7-hectare portion of undeveloped grass land at Debach Airfield into an extension of Clopton Business Park.

The outline plans were for light industrial, office, general industrial and storage or distribution uses, which would feature a main business centre, three terraces of smaller units and a studio with a gym, creche and cafe.

Clopton Business Park. Picture: Google Maps
Clopton Business Park. Picture: Google Maps

However, despite the plans being welcomed by both Clopton Parish Council and East Suffolk Council's economic development team, planning officers recommended refusal.

That was because the land is considered countryside, and the council's local plan states that new employment land outside settlement boundaries should not be permitted.

In addition, the lack of pedestrian and cycle links as well as a lack of bus connectivity meant officers considered it to have 'poor sustainability'.

Land for the proposed extension to Clopton Business Park. Picture: Google Maps
Land for the proposed extension to Clopton Business Park. Picture: Google Maps

East Suffolk Council's planning south committee refused the plans by eight votes to one on Tuesday afternoon.

Councillor Mike Deacon pointed to other sites allocated in the district for industrial use, and said: "If we give way to pieces here and there we are going to destroy our countryside."

Cllr Tony Cooper added: "If this application had come forward with some firm businesses that wanted to take up units I think our decision could be a lot easier, but at the moment we are looking at industrial businesses we have no proof whatsoever will be taken up, and going against our local plan."

However, councillors also stressed the development of jobs was key, while Cllr Stuart Bird said there could be many reasons why businesses hadn't taken up other allocated sites, describing economic growth in rural areas as 'more desperately needed' than urban parts of the district.

Peter Raffell, chairman of Clopton Parish Council said the council 'sees this as a rare opportunity for a new approach to rural development, potentially to provide up to 135 jobs locally'.

He said warehousing units would only bring low-skilled jobs, whereas designs for the site to offer skilled industrial jobs and even become a creative industries hub, meant it could be a 'model for rural development'.

Previous applications in 2018 and 2019 had been for similar proposed uses but withdrawn.

It is not yet clear if a revised application will be submitted.

In its application, Oasis said the new portion would have some separation to the existing business park and would 'create a vibrant enterprising business community at Clopton Commercial Park, with a wide variety of sizes of building accommodating various scales of enterprise'.