Campaigner voices frustration over handling of Belle Vue House site
A staunch campaigner committed to preserving a public green space in Sudbury claims the leader of Babergh District Council has “painted a very poor picture” of those fighting to retain the site.
Louise Violet May, who is a member of the Belle Vue Park: Rescue, Restore and Revive campaign group, criticised John Ward’s comments on the community’s efforts to save Belle Vue House from being demolished or sold to a private developer.
In last week’s Free Press, Cllr Ward disputed claims by community groups that they had been denied access to the Victorian property, which prompted Ms May to issue a response.
“As a group, we have been asking [to see the house] for over three months,” she said. “Various excuses have been given and no progress has been made.
“Safety was one of the reasons floated around, however, recently, one of the councillors, who is sympathetic to our cause, was allowed access and the condition of the house is nowhere near as bad as many have implied – even the electricity is still connected.”
Last week, Cllr Ward encouraged interested parties to raise any proposals directly with the district council, as opposed to posting them on social media.
“There has definitely been contact via phone, email and face to face with members of Babergh District Council to discuss potential ideas and express our views,” said Ms May.
She accused the Babergh leader of failing to address the potential risk of losing key community green space should a hotel development be granted approval on the former swimming pool site.
“This includes part of the children’s play area that has been earmarked to be swallowed up by the initial ‘indicative’ layout,” she said, before highlighting the detrimental impact the project could have on the town.
“This would take away the right of children in the community to play in public recreation areas surrounded by mature trees and open space.
“Being in nature and open space is essential to the mental well-being of our children.”
While Ms May recognised it was positive that Cllr Ward had welcomed proposals to open up Belle Vue House, she stated that maximising accessibility to the park would be a top priority, before any initiatives could prove beneficial to the town.
Responding to the claims, Cllr Ward stated that the district council had not received any formal business cases from community groups.
He reasserted that he hoped both the community and district council could work together to reach a satisfactory resolution for the site.
“I am sure that, between us, we can come up with a scheme for the whole park that gives the house a future use and delivers the hotel and restaurant, while retaining and enhancing the open space, including upgrading the play and recreational facilities, which we have already started with the new skate park and games area – and improving access to the park from the town,” he said.
“All these things can work together; I simply do not accept that they are mutually exclusive.”