The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Suffolk is considering the potential sale of the Martlesham Police Headquarters site for residential development, in order to help reduce costs within the force and provide better value for money to tax payers without impacting on police services or jobs.

In order to understand the value of the site, and therefore determine whether it should be sold, the PCC has appointed a team of specialist consultants to look at how it might potentially accommodate residential development. Subject to further technical work and public consultation, it is likely an outline planning application will be submitted to Suffolk Coastal District Council later this year.

If the proposal goes ahead, the development of this brown field site could not only save the police force money, it could also help Suffolk to meet its housing needs by providing a range of homes in a short time frame (up to 5 years). It is thought that around 250 homes, would fit on this site.

Update October 2018 – considering your feedback

In the summer, we held a period of public consultation which included a public exhibition at Martlesham Heath Pavilion in June. Draft illustrative plans were on display (these can be viewed here PDF,2MB) and members of the project team were available to discuss the outline proposals and answer questions. Around 310 people attended the exhibition and feedback was received from 164 people or organisations before, during and after the event.

The information below, plus this leaflet (PDF, 197KB), provides details on the main themes of the feedback we received from local residents, staff and other stakeholders and how we are now considering them as the plans are developed further.

Key themes of the feedback

Traffic, access & roads

We understand this is a key concern and we have conducted a full Traffic Assessment that will be submitted with our planning application. Currently, approximately 1,600 vehicle trips are made to or from the Police HQ and Police Investigation Centre (PIC) between 7am and 10pm. A development of 250 homes, plus the retention of the PIC, is estimated to generate between 1,500 and 1,800 vehicle trips between 7am and 10pm. Looking just at peak hours however, the assessment found that there would be fewer vehicles entering/leaving the site during these hours if it were to be redeveloped for housing.

In terms of getting onto the site, it would be accessed as it currently is, off Portal Avenue. As part of our planning application, we will be required to show that the access into and out of the site is safe and that the development does not have any adverse impacts on adjoining roads or junctions. Suffolk County Council Highways will be consulted on this to ensure their design and safety standards are met and we would expect Highways to acknowledge that they may need to consider improvements to local infrastructure.

Capacity of local infrastructure

Your feedback highlighted the importance of ensuring schools and healthcare faclities can meet local needs. To reflect this, the County Council as the local authority responsible for health and education will be formally consulted and they will advise on any additional capacity requirements likely to be needed and how these can be met. Should the development go ahead, SCDC would collect a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) financial contribution from the developers for local public services such as transport, flood defences, health and social care, education, libraries and leisure facilities. Also, other approved development in the area, such as that at Adastral Park, will be providing new community facilities.

Level of development in the local area

A range of technical reports are being drawn up to consider any potential impacts of the proposal alongside other ‘committed development’ in the area, including the future development at Adastral Park. SCDC will then decide as to whether housing on the site would be acceptable in light of potential net cumulative impacts.

A number of you asked ‘why here?’ in your feedback. Martlesham Heath lies within the ‘Eastern Ipswich Plan Area’ (EIPA), which is definied as a Major Centre in Suffolk Coastal District Council’s Settlement Hierarchy. The Core Strategy identified that approximately 29% of the district’s housing requirement (c.2,300 by 2027) will be in the EIPA. It is considered that Major Centres provide the greatest opportunity to deliver sustainable development, due to the range of (and accessibility to) local services and facilities including retail, employment, education, recreation and leisure, community and public transport.

Should the site be sold, we have been advised that the most suitable, compatible and viable use for the site would be for housing, as it is next to existing residential areas, it would not detract from the strategic employment and retail parks nearby, and because a residential use would also generate the most value (which could then be re-invested into local policing). It would ultimately be a decision for Suffolk Coastal District Council as to whether housing on the site would be acceptable.

Local wildlife

We agree wholeheartedly that local wildlife must be considered during the planning process. Various surveys and reports have been carried out to look at which species are present on or near the site and what could be done, if necessary, to ensure that suitable alternative habitat could be provided on the site should it be redeveloped (or if not, that species could be safely translocated to habitat away from the site).

The site is well screened by hedgerows and trees, which would be retained wherever possible or replaced according to planning consent conditions. Additional planting would also take place. The Portal Woodlands will not be affected by the proposal as they are they are covered by an ‘area to be protected from development’ policy.

Project economics 

Some of you asked about the economic viability of the project. Our aim is to maximise the value of the site in order to enable the PCC to consider the viability of the options available for the force to relocate to fit-for-purpose premises, and to reinvest into local police services. In order to decide if relocation is economically viable we need to obtain a realistic value of the site, which can only be done through the planning process. Even if planning permission is granted there is no guarantee the Constabulary would relocate – ultimately it is dependent on the business case, which will include what offers the best value for the taxpayer and the organisation.

Moving to new or shared facilities should reduce the current running costs of the Martlesham Police HQ. However, more detailed work needs to be undertaken to fully quantify and review all the options before any decision is made. In the interest of transparency, any figures in this regard will be made public (when they are known).

Considering our neighbours

Protecting the amenity of those living adjacent to the site is very important to us. The site is already well screened by hedgerows and trees, which would be retained wherever possible or replaced according to planning consent conditions. The new homes would be distanced from the boundaries of existing properties along the southern boundary of the site by a substantial green buffer, good-sized gardens and appropriate boundary treatments, such as quality fencing and landscaping; and positioned to avoid any over-looking. The houses on Portal Avenue are already separated from the site by front gardens, the road and existing trees.

Ideas for the site

Several of you made suggestions for other uses for the site or said we should refurbish or rent out the current buildings. We have considered other employment uses, however with the nearby industrial, business and retail parks (and current vacancies within these), we do not believe there to be further demand for this in the area at the moment. We do not feel that the facilities we could offer to rent would provide enough of an income to cover the money needed for a basic refurbishment or to meet the current running costs. We must also consider what type of use would generate the most value for tax payers – as stated earlier we believe that housing would be the most suitable use for the site.

Police services and jobs

If the site is sold and we relocate to other premises, any further money resulting from the sale of the site would be reinvested in police services to help keep Suffolk one of the safest counties in the country in which to live, work, travel and invest. Furthermore, we do not intend to have any impact on current jobs by selling the site or relocating to other premises.

We are continuing to finalise the plans – with the feedback received in mind – and we anticipate that an outline planning application will be submitted to SCDC later this year. All the feedback we received will be detailed in a Statement of Community Consultation, which will be submitted with the planning application to SCDC.

Read more

Frequently Asked Questions (PDF, 76KB) – additional information on some of the above topics.

Approximate timeline

1. Further technical work based on East Suffolk District Council planners pre-application feedback received May 2019 (June-October 2019)

2. Review feedback from community and stakeholders, and re-engage as necessary, along with local plan requirements which is due for determination autumn 2019.

3. Submit outline planning application to establish the principle of building houses on the site (November 2019)

4. East Suffolk District Council to determine application (Approx spring 2020).

5. If approved, after a full financial evaluation, the PCC would decide if it were viable to market the site for development and sell the site to a house builder/developer (Approx late summer 2019)

6. House builder/developer would draw up detailed plans to be determined by East Suffolk District Council before any building could start.

We would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to get involved in the project so far.