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200-home project lost as demolition starts at huge former BT office block

PUBLISHED: 08:00 20 June 2020

Anzani House at Felixstowe - demolition work is under way Picture: JERRY TURNER

Anzani House at Felixstowe - demolition work is under way Picture: JERRY TURNER

Archant

A huge empty office block which was to be turned into nearly 200 new homes is being demolished – to make way for a distribution centre.

Dilapidated Anzani House at Felixstowe is to disappear from the town's skyline Picture: JERRY TURNERDilapidated Anzani House at Felixstowe is to disappear from the town's skyline Picture: JERRY TURNER

The loss will put a dent in Felixstowe’s projected housing figures but there had been concerns over the plan to turn Anzani House into flats and whether it was the right site for housing.

Exilarch’s Foundation successfully used a Government-created ‘loophole’ to avoid the perils of applying for planning permission for its homes project.

The charity, which provides funding for educational projects and scholarships in the UK and abroad, was told it did not need consent for the development and so there was no opportunity for residents and organisations to object, even if they wanted to.

The proposal for 197 one-bed and two-bed open market and affordable homes was submitted under the Government’s General Permitted Development Order – a scheme which means certain projects do not have to obtain planning permission unless there are overwhelming objections meeting specific criteria.

That was back in 2016 but now it has been revealed that Anzani House – one of the region’s largest office blocks – was bought at the start of 2019 by Maritime Transport Ltd, one of the UK’s leading and largest container transport operators which has its headquarters across the road from the six-storey block in Trinity Avenue.

Now the company has started work on demolishing the office block. Contractors’ teams have started working on site this week.

The project is expected to take up to 14 weeks.

In its place, the seven-acre site will be used for a distribution and container storage facility along with lorry parking, gatehouse and staff welfare facilities. Landscaping will be put in place along with access alterations and the relocation of an Anglian Water pumping station.

East Suffolk Council agreed the demolition work at the 1970s-built office block – which has been empty since it was vacated by BT in 2008 – because of existing concerns arising from the present state of the building, which detracts from the entrance to the Port of Felixstowe, and also numerous break-in attempts.

Planning documents describe the building as being in a “poor condition”.

The documents add: “The proposed development will provide a modern, flexible storage and distribution facility. This will support the ongoing growth of the Port of Felixstowe and the cluster of surrounding port-related uses.

“The port has an existing planning permission for significant expansion which is already underway; as the port continues to expand under this permission, so will the need for port-related development in the surrounding area.

“Anzani House is an outmoded building and has proven difficult to let; its demolition and replacement with storage and distribution uses will retain employment uses at the site and support jobs in the haulage industry.”

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