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Marham Park residents upset by plans for more homes instead of leisure facility on estate

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Residents on the growing Marham Park estate, in Fornham All Saints, say they feel conned after plans for a leisure facility were shelved.

In 2016 Countryside Homes, overall developer of the 1,137-home estate, was granted approval for a masterplan including 65 acres of country park and open space, village square with amenities, allotments, leisure facilities, sports pitches with pavilion and three play areas.

However, in August Countryside applied to West Suffolk Council for outline permission to build 76 homes on plot ‘parcel P’, which was earmarked for a commercial indoor sports/leisure facility in the masterplan.

Marham Park development, off Mildenhall Road Bury st Edmunds Picture Mark Westley. (51735695)
Marham Park development, off Mildenhall Road Bury st Edmunds Picture Mark Westley. (51735695)

Countryside said parcel P, together with a separate plot for outdoor sports pitches, had been marketed to leisure operators for four years, with ‘extremely limited’ interest.

The 2016 planning permission stipulated if the sports pitches were not sold to a commercial operator by September 2023 the land would be transferred to West Suffolk Council with a financial contribution to build the sports pitches, to be potentially ready by 2025.

Now, Countryside says if it is able to build homes on parcel P it would build the sports pitches and pavilion by 2023 and transfer those facilities to the council for public use.

Marham Park development, off Mildenhall Road Bury st Edmunds Picture Mark Westley. (51735701)
Marham Park development, off Mildenhall Road Bury st Edmunds Picture Mark Westley. (51735701)

However residents feel ‘conned’ after estate marketing promised a ‘village style’ development with amenities.

Meanwhile, Nick Smith, who operates The Playground outdoor assault course in Barrow, says his interest in developing a similar assault course, along with crazy golf and archery facilities, on parcel P has been thwarted by a high guide price for the freehold.

“When I was told they would welcome bids of £4 million upwards I couldn’t help but laugh,” said Nick. “The price doesn’t stack up.

“I’d probably suggest Bury is oversubscribed with generic leisure provision. I would offer something unique and exciting for Bury and Marham Park.”

Marham Park (51735698)
Marham Park (51735698)

A spokesperson for Countryside: “Over the last five years, Countryside and its appointed agent have made significant effort in marketing this parcel of land in the hope of attracting a viable commercial leisure operator with the funds available to make the investment required to build and operate a leisure facility at Marham Park. During this time, we have received limited interest and no viable offers.

“We can confirm Countryside has recently received an offer, which has been politely declined as the bid fell well short of market valuation.

“As part of the original planning permission for Marham Park, this area of the site was identified as a location for a potential commercial indoor sport and or leisure facility, with the option for the private operator also completing, running and taking ownership of the nearby sports pitches.

“There has been limited interest from willing and able commercial operators to purchase the site and with the sector still in recovery from the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, demand has weakened further, leaving it probable that this part of the site will lay vacant and uncompleted for the foreseeable future.

“Rather than leaving the land dormant, Countryside is now seeking planning permission for up to 76 much-needed additional homes for the area, including a mixture of market and affordable housing.

"As part of these plans, Countryside would deliver the sports pitches and pavilion two years earlier than originally envisaged, with the local authority able to make these amenities available to the community, providing real sporting benefits for local people.”

Marham Park resident Tracey Price, of Redwood Drive, said in her objection to the outline plans: “We don’t need more housing we need the facilities that were promised. Possibly a case of false advertising.

“Is this a case of profit for Countryside being put before the needs of the residents?”

Bryony Allen, of Martin Reed Walk, said: “We were promised a leisure facility when we moved in. We have been let down and conned.”

Simon Openshaw, of Myrtlewood Road, said: “Marham Park was sold to me and is still being marketed now as a ‘village style development’.

“This application would put the final nail in that coffin, to the extent I would investigate the feasibility of legal proceedings against Countryside Homes for mis-selling.”

Jessica Bilverstone, of Weston Drive, said: “We do not need any additional houses. We are a little way out of Bury and need our own facilities.

“Developers should not get away with selling a dream they had no intentions of fulfilling.”

Stephen Carr, of Shearing Street, said: “What’s the point of having a master plan approved by council if the developer can simply modify it later to build more houses?”

Alan Bush, of Merchant Avenue, said: “There are enough houses already, but the hoped for community facilities have not materialised. As yet we don’t have a local store or even a post box.”

Daniel Gardiner, of Cossie Close, said: “Aside from the obvious benefits to health and well-being that a leisure facility would bring, it would help build a sense of community rather than Marham Park just being a collection of houses on the edge of a town.”

Jasmine Birkett, of Wool Road, said: “This is not a welcome development and risks losing another key community facility leaving us with a single shop, three play areas, football pitches and allotments. Not quite the unique village-style environment boasting a village centre with ‘multiple amenities’ sold to us when choosing to live here.”

Dr Alan Paterson, of Tudor Road, said: “In my opinion the planning office has an obligation to hold the developers accountable to deliver against the masterplan signed off on initial application. Any compromises should be made against a backdrop of equivalent value added to the local community who have invested by buying property here.”

Maria Gregory, of Myrtlewood Road, said: “I’ve been following Marham Park plans since it was first proposed. Attending the dig, looking at plans and thought this would be a great place for a community to be established with plenty of facilities for the residents of Marham Park and wider local community.

“Since moving here in 2019 I’ve found a majority of residents to want to build this into a inclusive and welcoming community, many willing to help each other and make the area a good place to be. We’ve tackled children being bored waiting what must’ve seemed forever for play parks. Now everyone is waiting for other amenities and facilities that were planned from beginning.”

District councillor Diane Hind, who represents neighbouring Tollgate ward, said she felt Countryside should keep trying to find a leisure operator.

“The residents do need facilities – they haven’t even got a shop yet,” she said.

- Sign a petition against the plans here.

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