The sale of one of Sudbury’s largest industrial site has at last been completed, renewing cautious optimism that it could be retained as employment land in the future.
Delphi Diesel Systems confirmed this week that its 22-acre factory site in Newton Road has been sold to Future Properties Industrial Ltd, with the sale being formally completed on Friday.
The company will continue to finalise the site clearance up to the end of this month, having gradually wound down operations following the announcement in 2017 that the manufacturing plant would close, affecting hundreds of jobs.
The new owners have been invited to attend a virtual meeting of the South Suffolk Taskforce – set to take place tomorrow, with key stakeholders present – to discuss the site’s future.
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, who chairs the task force, stated that he was pleased to see the sale completed with a buyer with a track record for industrial ventures, but added that it is now in the public interest to find out more about its intentions for the site.
“Ultimately, we should welcome this news, as the immediate prospect of the Delphi site being unsold for many months, and sitting derelict amidst a cloud of uncertainty, has now passed,” he said.
“After all, Delphi is definitely vacating in July come what may and, therefore, had the site not been sold before then, there was the very real possibility of a long, moribund period for the empty factory.
“The background of the company certainly appears to lie primarily in industrial development rather than residential.
“This is important, because the fact Delphi is now vacating means the possibility of the factory being bought as a going concern has long passed as a realistic possibility.
“What matters is, therefore, the use of site in future, whether for employment or housing, the latter apparently having been the aim of a previous failed buyer.”
The completed sale of the Delphi plant to Future Properties Industrial comes after a number of previous bids for the site collapsed over the last two years.
In late 2018, an offer was made by a British firm to acquire the factory for electric car production, although this was subsequently withdrawn.
Last summer, concerns were raised about the possibility of the site being repurposed as a residential development, after Charterhouse Property Group was understood to be the frontrunner in the bidding process, but this deal also fell through.
The South Suffolk Taskforce (SSTF) has repeatedly argued the best outcome for the site would be for it to remain in industrial use, which was echoed by an options appraisal report commissioned by Babergh District Council, published in 2019.
Mr Cartlidge said: “The other members of the SSTF and I have been clear that maintaining the site for employment use has been our preference, given the loss of jobs at Delphi, notwithstanding that many of those leaving have found employment elsewhere.
“It’s reassuring up to a point that the company appears more active in the industrial sphere.
“Nevertheless, we should not jump to conclusions or make assumptions with such little information to go on, and I can only repeat that it’s important to find out more in due course about the new owner’s plans for the site.”
Delphi confirmed that the sale also includes the Delphi Centre, a facility which has been used for many years by various local groups and community events.
The building has been vacant and unused for the last three months, as a result of the coronavirus public lockdown.
Sudbury mayor Jack Owen, who is also one of the centre’s joint directors, said he was “cautiously pleased” the sale has been completed, but is keen to engage with the buyers to discuss an arrangement for the facility’s future.
Cllr Owen, a former Delphi employee for 37 years, told the Free Press he is hopeful the new owner will be willing to keep the centre for community use, adding that it is important to resolve the matter, as the building is in need for repairs to the roof.
“My worry is that, the longer it’s left, the more dilapidated it’s going to become,” he said. “The building itself is in reasonable condition. The only problem is the roof.
“If you speak to most people, they say it’s an exceptional building. I certainly would like to keep it running and a lot of people I know would like to keep it running.
“The football pitch is one of the best around. It doesn’t flood and it’s a really good surface. There’s precious little land around that’s available for public use, so we are anxious to keep it going.
“What I’d like to do is to find out from the developer what its plans are. I’d like to think we could keep it for the benefit of the community.
“They might be prepared to sell it, but that might be difficult without someone with a lot of money, so there would have to be an investigation into whether the community would be willing to take ownership of it.
“There’s lot of options available, and I will need to raise that issue with the developer.
“I have put a lot of my life into the facility and would love to see it retained for the benefit of the community.”
Published by the Suffolk Free Press.