West Suffolk Council steps in as Newmarket's Queensbury Lodge is deemed to be 'dangerous'
A war of words has broken out after a council claimed property developer Bill Gredley had refused to make safe a building which its surveyors said was a danger to the public.
On Monday, West Suffolk Council’s building control service stepped in to take emergency action after learning that Mr Gredley’s historic Grade II listed Queensbury Lodge had become ‘a dangerous structure’.
Barriers have been placed on the footpath preventing pedestrians from walking beneath the wall and work to shore up the High Street-facing façade is set to begin soon to prevent further deterioration.
The council had asked Mr Gredley – who owns the building and its land through a company called Oftenfact Ltd – to make the building safe but, said a council spokesman, he ‘declined to undertake the emergency work’.
But Mr Gredley said this was untrue.
“That’s playing with words. Our surveyor went there with their surveyor. They agreed that it would be best if it was made safe,” he said.
“They wrote to us and said ‘this building is in danger and if you don’t do something about it we’re going to do something about it ourselves’.”
Mr Gredley said the short notice meant he was unable to take any immediate action so he told the council to go ahead and offered them a contribution of £25,000.
“It’s making it look as if we refused to do it. Well we did refuse to do it because we couldn’t do it.
“They’re giving a false picture,” said Mr Gredley, who disputed the council’s report on his property.
“In my honest opinion it wasn’t that dangerous,” he said.
Queensbury Lodge, which has been empty for nearly 40 years, is thought to be the second-oldest stable yard in Newmarket after Palace House and is on the Suffolk historic buildings at risk register.
The current stand-off is the latest chapter in Mr Gredley’s battle to redevelop the site, which he has owned for the past four decades and which has become an eyesore on the western approach to the High Street.
Mr Gredley and his Unex company have come up with a number of proposals for the site, including an Asda supermarket, but these have fallen foul of council planners who insist that any site in Newmarket which has been used for horseracing purposes must retain that aspect.
In April last year Mr Gredley revealed he had been in discussions with council planners to build 50 houses and a non-profit care home run by his charitable trust.
He said the barrier to the scheme was now English Heritage.
“It is absolutely crazy we don’t get support for the senior citizens of Newmarket,” he said.
A council spokesman said: “We have been working with the owners for some time to find an acceptable form of development. Over the years, the site’s owners have proposed various options for bringing the site back into use and these have been considered through the planning process, including 22 unsuccessful applications and 13 appeals.
“We continue to talk to the owners about their responsibility for the property and a way to bring the site back into a viable use.”