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Work underway on controversial flats

PUBLISHED: 09:00 09 July 2010 | UPDATED: 09:52 01 August 2010

BUILDING work is underway for a controversial new development in Beccles that will house people recovering from mental health problems.

Suffolk Heritage Housing Association's plans to build flats on the corner of Noel's Walk and Pig Lane were approved last July despite opposition from residents in the area.

BUILDING work is underway for a controversial new development in Beccles that will house people recovering from mental health problems.

Suffolk Heritage Housing Association's plans to build flats on the corner of Noel's Walk and Pig Lane were approved last July despite opposition from residents in the area.

And following a long-running saga that has taken many twists and turns the first bricks have finally been laid for the external walls of the first floor of the building, with work expected to be finished by next April and residents expected to move in shortly afterwards.

The eight flats, with a separate flat and office for a manager, are being built on an area of land previously inhabited by derelict garages. An adjacent playarea is also being renovated as part of the project, and Wellington, the construction company undertaking the work, is currently carrying out the ground work on the site.

Residents will be consulted about the new play equipment at a later date.

A spokesperson for Suffolk Heritage said that they were happy with progress so far and that the work had “tidied up the area.”

The first proposals to build the flats were put forward in the spring of 2007, and there has been controversy surrounding the project ever since, largely due to local feeling that the area is already overcrowded.

Suffolk Heritage had previously been granted permission to build on the site in June 2008, but the plans involved a land swap that would have seen the flats replace the playground, with the rest of the plot being transformed into a public open space.

The association later decided to build the flats on the current site instead because of “insurmountable” problems relating to the land swap. Development on this site had been previously opposed by residents when similar plans were turned down in 2007, and again in January 2008.

And a petition organised last summer by Ian West, the residents' coordinator of the Denmark Road area where the flats are being built, revealed that 207 residents were against the flats, with just 16 in favour.

However he said yesterday that opposition had cooled for the moment. “Once the building started people's feelings tended to die down a bit,” he said. “The site is progressing smoothly and there are no problems between the residents and builders.”

One of the issues local people had with the flats was the potential problem of parking in an already overcrowded area of Beccles, and Mr West said that they were still in negotiations with Wellington about creating extra spaces for residents of the area.

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