Plans to turn a factory into residential homes has united opponents, who are determined to see the Sudbury site retained for industrial use.
In a bitter blow to the town, Delphi Diesel Systems revealed its intentions to sell its plant in Newton Road to Charterhouse Property Group last month, following a decision to wind down operations before vacating the site next year.
The potential loss of the industrial site has prompted widespread concern, with seven key figures this week writing to Charterhouse to express their opposition to any move that would see the factory bulldozed and replaced with new homes.
The seven include John Ward, leader of Babergh District Council, Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia LEP, John McMillan, president of Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, Neal Evans, from Unite the Union, Sudbury mayor Robert Spivey and county Councillor Jack Owen.
In his own letter, South Suffolk MP and taskforce chairman James Cartlidge has warned of the potential repercussions such a development could cause on hundreds of staff at the site, while highlighting the adverse economic impact it would have on the town.
“Your plans could result in a significant number of constituents, who are currently facing imminent redundancy, being denied the positive prospect of new occupants being able to take over all, or part, of the Delphi site for continuing industrial use, offering the potential for continued employment,” he said.
Town and county councillor Jack Owen condemned the plans, while accusing Delphi of failing to fulfil its original pledge.
“Your decision is a betrayal of the loyal workforce of Delphi and the commitment that you gave at the beginning of the process to keep the site for industrial purposes,” he said.
Babergh District Council confirmed it had undergone several discussions with Charterhouse, while providing reassurances that other avenues are being explored.
“We remain committed to a future for this site that provides employment opportunities,” a spokesman said. “We continue to have conversations with potential purchasers.
“While the owners are in ongoing negotiations over the future of the site, we understand no final sale has so far been agreed.”
Following last week’s meeting with the South Suffolk Taskforce, opponents outlined their objections to the plans in a series of letters presented to Charterhouse.
Mr Cartlidge declared a “strong consensus of opinion” in favour of preserving the factory site had been formed in retaliation to plans for any residential development.
“I therefore wanted to set out to you [Charterhouse] in the strongest possible terms that all members of the task force, together with a range of significant political and economical stakeholders in Sudbury, are united in opposition to a change of use to residential being granted in any future planning application,” he said.
Cllr Owen warned Delphi that, should the deal be agreed, the detrimental impact on employment would be unforgivable.
“Whilst I accept that the severance arrangements that were negotiated between yourselves and the trade unions were generous,” he said. “The loss of jobs that would result from your decision will not be tolerated and will be resisted by the Sudbury community.”
Cllr Owen, pictured right, urged the business to rethink its decision to sell its site to a property developer, citing the close ties it had formed over an extensive period of time.
“Delphi and the community have enjoyed an extremely harmonious relation-ship for many, many years,” he said. “It would be a shame that, at the cessation of your business in the town, it ended with any resentment or bitterness.”
Citing current housing schemes already in the pipeline, Babergh District Council leader John Ward stated there was no demand for further projects in the town.
“Babergh currently has a 5.78-year housing land supply and, together with the existing outline planning permission for 1,150 homes on the Chilton Woods site, this means that we do not need further sites in Sudbury in addition to those already earmarked in the joint local plan,” he said.
“We will robustly resist inappropriate redevelopment of the Delphi site.”
Cllr Ward stated that the authority was keen to see the factory retained for industrial use and welcomed further parties to pledge their interest in the site.
“We support employment uses on the site and will work with any new owners to try to secure this,” he said.
John McMillan, pictured, president of Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, echoed Cllr Ward’s sentiments, while highlighting the shortage of industrial space in the town made it all the more vital that the site was not compromised.
Speaking on behalf of the town council, Sudbury mayor Robert Spivey expressed its disappointment on Delphi’s change of heart.
He said: “We want to provide opportunities for companies to come and set up in Sudbury and thought Delphi was supporting us in that process with its discussions to try to maintain this as an industrial site.”
Published by the Suffolk Free Press.