Proposal for re-development of Ridgeons to go out for public consultation next month


Ridgeons - Credit: Archant

BOSSES at Ridgeons have confirmed the firm is committed to remaining in Saffron Walden as it looks to rejuvenate its Ashdon Road site – a move which could create more than 400 new jobs in the town.

Last month the Reporter exclusively revealed the company was looking at redeveloping 13 hectares of land to the north of Ashdon Road.

Early plans drawn up in a screening application submitted to Uttlesford District Council (UDC) state a small hotel, restaurant, retail units and 170 homes could all be included in a bid to make the proposal commercially viable.

Group managing director, Angela Rushforth, said the company were now keen to seek the public’s opinion on its plans at a consultation scheduled to take place next month.

In a meeting with the Reporter, she insisted that Ridgeons would continue to operate as usual during the building work were a planning application to be approved. It is anticipated a proposal will be submitted to UDC by the end of the year.

“The buildings on our site are reaching the end of their life and have become costly to repair and improve, so we have been thinking for some time about how to develop our site,” Mrs Rushforth explained.

“We are very committed to Saffron Walden – as a business we intend to stay here and all our energy is going into remaining on this site.”

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She added: “It is important to us because we have a long history in Saffron Walden and have built up strong relationships with traders and customers over the years.

“That is why we are looking to create a scheme for a purpose-built site of the size and scale we need to expand as a company and generate more business.”

Asked about fears from residents of a possible increase in traffic with the planned development, Mrs Rushforth said: “We understand people’s concerns over traffic movements and as part of the planning process we are doing some studies on that, but it is too early to say what the impact might be.”

There are currently just under 200 people employed on the Ridgeons site but the firm believes more than 400 new jobs could be created under its proposal.

According to the screening application, the hotel is likely to be large enough for 40 beds, while one hectare of space has been earmarked for offices, an industrial facility and storage or distribution centre.

A restaurant is also in the initial proposal, alongside a retail centre which could include shops and a food store, but the firm’s planning associate director, Paul Belton, reiterated the retail aspect would be small.

He said: “We are not looking at a large retail centre here. It will be small retail units that enhance the commercial viability of this site in the eyes of potential occupants.

“Studies by the district council have been clear in recent years that Saffron Walden needs to move away from large warehouses and more toward light industry and offices, which our site could provide.”

“The type of units we have here at the moment are not needed in the local area anymore.”

Other businesses currently renting warehouses on the site, including New World Timber Frame, are in discussions with Ridgeons about remaining there in the future.