Fresh blueprint for regenerating centre of Sudbury, including new cinema and hotel, set out at public showcase
Refreshed proposals to regenerate the centre of Sudbury – including a new hotel and cinema and ideas for a redesign of Market Hill – headlined a new public exhibition on the town’s future.
Babergh District Council held a three-day ‘What’s next for Sudbury?’ showcase at the town hall last week, offering visitors an update on ongoing developments and seeking their views on ideas to enhance the visitor economy.
Projects on display included a fresh blueprint for the redevelopment of the Hamilton Road quarter, with a mixed-use scheme that includes residential units, a hotel and a small three-screen cinema with a food-and-drink offering.
The plans would see Sudbury’s existing bus station replaced with on-street bus stops throughout the town, as part of a package of road and junction improvements.
Although the Hamilton Road regeneration scheme was first touted in 2018, the hotel is a significant new addition, after proposals to build one at Belle Vue Park fell through in 2020.
A bid for £6.36 million of government funding to deliver the road upgrades was rejected, but it was confirmed on Thursday that a new bid will be submitted next month, incorporating feedback from the unsuccessful first attempt.
John Ward, Babergh’s Independent Conservative leader, said that, despite all the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic since the last public exhibition in January 2020, the ambitions for Sudbury remain big.
“I don’t think our ambitions have changed at all,” he told Suffolk News. “Our ambition has always been to redevelop the whole site as a multi-use scheme.
“The ambition for road travel improvement hasn’t changed either. They are needed to support what we want to do here, but, in many respects, they are needed anyway.
“It won’t be done overnight, but we believe that we have now got everything together. We’ve got a mixed scheme here that will not only be great for the town, but it is actually achievable.”
The exhibition at Sudbury Town Hall also set out four different options for the future layout of Market Hill, with the public invited to give their opinions on each one.
The options range from a 'light-touch approach', with existing parking retained but restricted in the summer, to a potential complete redesign that would see the thoroughfare fully pedestrianised.
Cllr Ward indicated that he is generally in favour of making the town centre more suitable for pedestrians, based on the success of such public spaces in other towns.
“We support the idea of having more of a public space on Market Hill, because that’s the way many towns are going,” he said.
“We’ve seen towns in this country and abroad repurpose their central market spaces into pedestrian areas for events and places to enjoy.
“We do want to encourage that sort of culture as well. Having cars clog up the centre of town is not the way forward, in my opinion.”
The exhibition included updates on the ongoing regeneration work at Gainsborough’s House and St Peter’s, and the new entrance plans at Belle Vue Park.
Babergh leader Cllr Ward suggested the Hamilton Road scheme, along with these other projects, would add up to “more than the sum of their parts” and enhance the overall visitor economy.
“The visitor economy is growing within the district, particularly the Sudbury area, and we’ve got to support that,” he said.
“In lots of the feedback we’ve had, a cinema is certainly something people want. At the moment, you have to go to Bury, Ipswich or Colchester to go to the cinema.
“The population in Sudbury, Cornard, Acton, Long Melford and so on is rising and you can justify a small cinema of the type we’re proposing.
“The hotel is also desperately wanted. I’m constantly being approached by businesses and representatives from cultural venues who are desperate for extra hotel accommodation.
“Gainsborough’s House is about to open up its new extended gallery. St Peter’s is proceeding at pace. These places are desperate for hotel accommodation because they need help to attract visitors.”
In addition to the residential and commercial amenities, the proposal also set out an ambition to improve the area’s appearance and its links to the rest of the town.
Fiona Duhamel, assistant director for economic development and regeneration, told Suffolk News: “The feedback we’ve had is that people are in very much in line with what we are doing. It has been very supportive.
“Key to the background of the scheme is connectivity. At the moment, if you walk to Hamilton Road from the station, you’ve not got the most pleasant of walks.
“The concept has a new walkway that still links with King Street and, as you approach, you would be able to see into the scheme.”
Cllr Ward added: “Hamilton Road is a very complex site, not just in terms of acquisition of land. The fact that this is a mixed scheme, we have to make sure all these things are possible and achievable.
“It’s about putting together the right package financially. It has to stack up and pay for itself. Also, getting the right visual scheme for Sudbury – to make sure it fits with the town – is essential.
“The long-term benefits are not only the hotel and cinema, but also a very nice residential community and open space.
“You’ve got improved views as you approach the town on foot, on bike and from the railway station. All of this is enhancing what is not a very attractive entrance to the town.”
Sudbury Town Council has confirmed that an extraordinary full council meeting will take place on Monday at 6.30pm.
The meeting, which is being held at the town hall and will be open to the public, will discuss the plans for Sudbury and agree the town council’s response.