Brian Boggis (Con, Peverel), executive member for regeneration, also described how talks with the company were ongoing about the future use of the site at a full meeting on Thursday (July 22).
He was responding to a question from Sharon Sluman (Lab, Mash Barn) who asked: “With the exit of IKEA and the agreed fourth arm development going ahead, what will this council be doing to encourage a sustainable and green-led company to take on this land in order to offset the damage done to our local environment and pressure on infrastructure whilst also adding value to the local community?”
Mr Boggis said that IKEA’s decision to pull out of the site this month ‘came as a shock to everybody’ and that he had worked ‘very hard’ to gain planning approval for the retailer since 2016.
Now Mr Boggis has said the council is committed to finding a ‘sustainable’ replacement for the world-famous flatpack furniture retailer.
He said: “Unfortunately there were delays upon delays and then we suffered Covid and, of course, the whole retail system, the whole retail background if you like, has changed.
“I now feel that, frankly, we have a chance to look again at the decision that was made in 2018 and say ‘well that was right then, but is it right now?’.”
Mr Boggis explained that negotiations with IKEA are ongoing to ensure they sell the land to an appropriate bidder.
He also said he received assurances that the fourth arm of the new A27 roundabout to Coombes Road and other infrastructure required for the New Monks Park (formerly New Monks Farm) housing development are continuing, with road improvements ‘commencing very shortly’.
In terms of the future of the site, Mr Boggis said he wanted to provide employment for the area.
He said: “We will be looking at the very best we can achieve for that site. My own personal preference is that it remains as a site for employment and, hopefully, high paid and high-tech employment and green employment.”
Mr Boggis acknowledged ‘pressures on infrastructure’ from the new development but said the council is committed to ensuring that the environment is maintained ‘in the very best way possible’.
He added: “We do look as a council to ensure that our environment is maintained in the very best way possible. You’ve only got to look at the country park that has been installed there.”
Ms Sluman felt it was ‘not clear’ how the council would secure a sustainable buyer to take IKEA’s place but Mr Boggis insisted the council would have the final say.
He said: “We are in negotiations with IKEA to ensure that they understand our preferences for the business.
“We are the planning authority and we will actually give permissions or not give permissions for suitable or unsuitable proposals that come to us and that is exactly what we will continue to do.”
He added that he was ‘pretty sure’ the IKEA site would soon have a new name.
Planning permission for the retailer to build a store on the site, along with a new 600 home development, primary school and roundabout, were approved in October 2018.