So, the old Suffolk Coastal Offices on Melton Hill are finally back on the market after five years of boarded windows, weedy courtyards, and locked barriers to unoccupied car parks.
Not before time. The entire process to now has been a fiasco.
Never was there five years when the existence of such a lot of empty space showed up so badly. There they stood, wifully and wastefully unused in a town that is bursting at the seams – a town where there’s nowhere to park, nowhere for people of even moderate means to rent or buy, where every little wedge of extra space is for sale or in the process of development. And the people who grew up in Woodbridge (as did their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) are increasingly squeezed out.
We needed social space – yet all those rooms, the spacious council chamber, were locked and unavailable.
We needed parking – yet the car-parks were not available.
We had a need for shelter – yet the nearest place for the homeless was either Felixstowe or Ipswich.
And, we’ve long had a need for ordinary homes for ordinary people: young singles, living with their parents long after they wanted to; older people wanting to downsize but unable to afford to, disabled people needing specialised accommodation with freedom, and young families wanting to establish themselves here. We need them as much as they need the housing.
In a year of lockdown, when extra space was at a premium it seemed particularly and shockingly redundant because we needed these things more – as key workers, living with elderly parents had to isolate, or numbers of adult children descended on their parents.
That ever more crumbling site could have been put to many uses to benefit us, it’s ultimate owners.
So now that it’s back on the market again, let’s not make the mistake of such deadly inaction, East Suffolk!
And when we look at getting added value for the people of the district, and approval from the town and its inhabitants, please let’s remember value is not always a matter of hard cash. We can sell the site for a quick buck – or we can develop the site within some form of unsaleable trust to create dynamic and environmentally sustainable community housing with sustainable transport links to support the people of the area for generations to come.