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Sudbury mayor ‘extremely disappointed’ after Market Hill pilot scheme scrapped by Suffolk County Council





Sudbury Town Council says it is “extremely disappointed”, after a summer trial to test the partial pedestrianisation of the town centre has been cancelled – just one month before it was due to begin.

It was confirmed this week that Suffolk County Council had refused permission for a planned 18-month pilot for Sudbury’s Market Hill.

The trial, which would have seen Market Hill’s central parking bays removed to try to create a flexible space for outdoor dining and events, was due to take place between May and September.

Market Hill, Sudbury.
Market Hill, Sudbury.

Back in February, Sudbury Town Council approved the pilot in a bid to trial the potential benefits of a more pedestrian-friendly Market Hill.

In March, however, the Chamber of Commerce submitted the results of a survey of 53 businesses to Suffolk Highways, indicating heavy opposition to the loss of parking.

On Tuesday, the county council confirmed it would not grant the experimental traffic regulation order necessary for the trial to go ahead, due to the “potential detrimental impact to footfall and trade in the town”.

In response, Sudbury Town Council stated it is concerned that the county’s cabinet member for transport strategy, Richard Smith, had taken the decision without contacting them beforehand to discuss any concerns.

The town council argued that a lot of public time and money had gone into developing the plans, and that it was “unreasonable to cancel it at the last moment when lobbied by one unelected local group”.

A joint statement from Sudbury mayor Jan Osborne and deputy mayor Alison Owen said: “We are extremely disappointed in Cllr Smith’s decision to put a halt to this pilot scheme.

“This was an uninformed decision, and we are hoping that he will re-consider when he knows the facts.

“He is being given the opportunity to come to talk to us and see Sudbury for himself.”

“Two years of hard work and planning have been put into this scheme. Surely it is worth a try for the sake of Sudbury.”

The summer pilot scheme to partially pedestrianise Market Hill was first put forward at the ‘What next for Sudbury?’ exhibition in 2022.

It was then proposed to be trialled over the summer of 2023, before being delayed to give businesses more time to prepare for how to make best use of the changes.

Sudbury Town Council stated that the concept had received broad support from the majority of attendees at the annual town meeting last month.

The town council is now calling for a face-to-face meeting with Cllr Smith, to put forward their arguments in favour of the plans.

These frustrations were echoed by Babergh District Council’s leader, John Ward, who told Suffolk News that he was “appalled” by Suffolk County Council’s late decision to block the pilot.

He said: “This goes against a democratic decision by the town council and follows a huge amount of work and money expended by them, Babergh and the county council.

“It’s very concerning that a decision has been made on the basis of lobbying from an unelected organisation, without speaking to the democratically-elected town council first to listen to both sides.

“This amounts to a nakedly political decision without any thought for the town and the many residents who were looking forward to the possibilities the trial would open up.

“It would have been a wonderful opportunity for Sudbury to try something new and offer residents and visitors a new experience. It would undoubtedly have brought much increased trade to the high street businesses.

“Suffolk County Council is effectively saying to all the market towns in the county – don’t try to re-imagine your towns to make them viable in the future, the county council won’t support you.”