Mid Suffolk Council to borrow £60m for Stowmarket development

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image captionMid Suffolk District Council's cabinet agreed to borrow the money behind closed doors

A council is planning to borrow £60m to buy and develop land in a Suffolk market town, it has emerged.

The plan was hatched behind closed doors at a Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet meeting, but came to light when it was added in error to a report sent to a town council.

Under the proposal, Mid Suffolk would repay the money by using bonus funds from the government for housing.

The council said it would not comment on "this specific speculative issue".

However, the report indicated a "majority" had voted in favour of plan, and "it will go ahead".

District councillor Mike Norris, who is named in the report, said: "It was unfortunate it had been disclosed at this point, when it's a commercially sensitive matter.

"It was sent out unfortunately in error."

'Iconic feature'

According to the report sent to Needham Town Council, the land is next to Cedars Link, near Tesco, in Stowmarket.

The proposed development is called Gateway 14 and would include an "iconic feature", similar to the Suffolk Food Hall near Ipswich.

The report said the council would borrow money from the Public Works Loan Board, the lending authority for local councils.

It would be repaid from the New Homes Bonus, a scheme in which the government matches the council tax on each new home built for a period of five years and pays it to the authority.

Councils are not obliged to use the money for housing development.

Mid Suffolk's cabinet agreed to go ahead with the plan under the last item on its agenda, which was entitled "funding approval for the acquisition of land" and excluded the press and public.

A council spokesman said: "While we are happy to discuss our wider investment activities and how we make a profit for the purposes of improving services and regenerating our local areas, we will not be commenting on this specific speculative issue."

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