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Sudbury Town Council votes to formally oppose contentious plans for retirement housing development at Belle Vue Park



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Sudbury Town Council has reaffirmed its opposition to contentious retirement housing plans at Belle Vue Park, as members claim it represents an unacceptable permanent loss of public open space.

A planning application by Churchill Retirement Living, which is seeking permission to build 42 flats at the disused former swimming pool site and convert Belle Vue House into two homes, is awaiting consideration from Babergh District Council.

But, at their first meeting of 2022, Sudbury town councillors voted to oppose the application, highlighting a slew of issues with the proposals, and questioning what evidence there was that this type of housing was needed locally.

CGI designs of what the new retirement homes in Sudbury\'s Belle Vue Park could look like. Picture: Churchill Retirement Living
CGI designs of what the new retirement homes in Sudbury\'s Belle Vue Park could look like. Picture: Churchill Retirement Living

Chief among the concerns was the town’s shortage of open space, with councillors arguing against the idea that the sites should be considered brownfield.

Councillor Jack Owen said: “Belle Vue Park is, if you like, the golden chalice of Sudbury.

“The big problem is that the view of Babergh officers and Sudbury Town Council differ in what is open space.

Belle Vue House in Sudbury. Picture by Mecha Morton
Belle Vue House in Sudbury. Picture by Mecha Morton

“We would certainly argue that this is part of the open space.

“There is insufficient open space available for Sudbury, bearing in mind the current population and also the developing population coming from Chilton Woods.

“I don’t believe there has been any evidence-based case for such a development near the town centre, or in Sudbury at all.”

Deputy mayor Ellen Murphy called on Babergh’s planning committee to hold its meeting for deciding the application in the town itself due to its 'great importance to the people of Sudbury'.

“My main concern is, once this space is taken away, it can never be given back,” she said. “We lack open space in Sudbury, and the water meadows are not accessible all year round.”

The council’s opposition comes after the launch of a fresh petition by the Belle Vue Action Group – a community campaign opposed to private development at the park.

Signed by more than 750 people since it began last month, the petition argues that Sudbury faces a deficit of open space and could not afford to lose more.

Councillor Steve Hall added: “If it’s not open space, what is it? It is not defined in any Babergh documentation as a brownfield site.

“I see no evidence of this type of residential build being required locally.”

In addition to the open space concerns, councillors objected to the proposed scale and height of the development, and raised fears about the highways safety issues for would-be residents of the flats.

They also criticised the proposed parking provision, on the grounds that it lacked sufficient spaces.

Town mayor and Babergh councillor Sue Ayres said: “I live in an area where there are retirement flats. With 35 flats, only two of those do not have their own vehicles.

“They haven’t considered that there might be couples living in those flats who have two cars.

“I find it quite insulting the idea that once you’re over 60 or 70, you wouldn’t drive. That’s also not counting visitors, families or carers.”