The Sudbury Society wholeheartedly supports the development of Sudbury Town Centre to provide extended retail and recreational facilities within the town, which should enhance the future viability of the town centre. Unfortunately the Hamilton Road Quarter, which is being promoted by Sudbury Steering Group, is based upon a development proposal which was probably first aired around ten years ago. To proceed on these out-of-date assumptions could prove extremely dangerous for the town. Our traffic has increased beyond expectations and will continue to do so; our parking facilities are at a premium. The availability of parking and the lack of charges has kept Sudbury as a far more viable retail location than many comparable towns, but the Society is concerned that development should not be driven forward at the cost of retaining the future viability of the town and its facilities.The idea of moving the bus station from within the Hamilton Road Quarter to the Girling Street car park was presented on the basis that this would lead to an intensification of the town retail offering and to provide excellent extra facilities for the town centre. This should not, however, be interpreted as a carte blanche to reduce parking availability by 70 spaces.
We have been told that one of the reasons for this development is the shortage of large retail units in the town centre. Currently within Sudbury the former Co-operative supermarket site is empty, Burtons unit is available to rent with a temporary occupier and the former Greggs site – a large retail outlet in a prime position on the Market Hill – is being developed as yet another coffee shop.
Part of the land to be included within the development area is subject to a Covenant in favour of the owners of the Borehamgate Precinct. When the Sudbury Society asked for clarification on this issue at a recent Steering Group meeting it was told that this was ‘not something we have to worry about at this stage’. The impression was that a full investigation of this issue has not been carried out or at best, has not been finalised.
We are therefore extremely concerned that to move the bus station (at, no doubt, considerable expense) to the Girling Street car park should not be progressed until the whole town has been convinced that what we are being provided with, in the Hamilton Road quarter, is worthy of the loss of 70 parking spaces. Suffolk County Council’s position on this matter is that there is no reason why the bus station move cannot go ahead and that there is no need to wait for a developer to be in place before it does so.
Sudbury town centre is dominated by the presence of one retail operation – Winch and Blatch, with its four large retail outlets in King Street and the Market Hill. Any development of Hamilton Road will require access to the town centre and this will involve either through the Borehamgate Precinct or the footpath which leads to St Peter’s Church across land owned by Winch and Blatch. We find it extraordinary that in the present state of proposals and discussions no approach has been made to Winch and Blatch, either to discuss their land ownership or to seek their views of the development proposals.
We believe that the people of Sudbury should be extremely concerned that the plans for the Hamilton Road quarter are being pushed through without proper consideration of the consequences to the town, its retail future and its ability to cope with the proposed development and expanding population of Chilton Woods.
If we could end up with a smaller retail development than was originally proposed for Hamilton Road, then surely the bus station could remain in that area. If the development turns out to be principally leisure and restaurant based, it does not seem that this is of sufficient benefit to the town to risk losing 70 parking spaces, particularly as this facility does much to retain the commercial vitality of Sudbury town centre.
We must try to ensure that the planners do not put the cart before the horse to benefit the politicians who can say they have achieved development in the Hamilton Road Quarter, whether this is for the benefit of the town or not.