Did you have your say about your Society and your town?

Reporter: Anne Grimshaw

September’s meeting was a members’ forum, chaired by Lorna Hoey, for pooling of questions, thoughts, ideas and suggestions about the Sudbury Society and the town itself. Members had been asked in advance for questions and comments but, disappointingly, only about 30 turned up.

The first half was about the Sudbury Society and what members liked and did not like. The second part concerned Sudbury and what was going on.

Committee members answered specific questions when possible or ‘took on board’ various suggestions. One of these was whether the membership fee should be increased, perhaps substantially, but offset by having no entrance fee on the night. Treasurer Ian Liddell said this was a balancing act which had to cover the basic costs of the hall rental and speakers’ fees which were expensive, plus any incidentals. The Wheeler legacy to the Society was to be used for special reasons, not the day-to-day running of the Society.

How to increase membership numbers was another topic. For instance, is Friday evening the best day/time? Anne Grimshaw pointed out that the Sudbury History Society met on a weekday morning and had a waiting list for would-be members. (This would, admittedly, cut out people who worked, but few ‘workers’ come anyway.)

How could young people (i.e. those under 60!) be attracted? The present format of talks was unlikely to appeal to many teenagers! This ‘image problem’ is something that most civic societies face. Indeed, many people do not know what a civic society is – it sounds boring…

Should talks and events relate solely to Sudbury or could they be extended to include surrounding areas? Opinion was divided over this.

What do members want? Enjoyment, information, entertainment, socialising. That’s a tall order for the Events Sub-committee to achieve at every meeting! It was agreed that there should be a balance between the number of social/entertaining events and more serious ones.

There needs to be more communication between the committee and membership. At present, this is achieved through the NewsJournal. Members could be on a emailing list and updated as frequently as necessary but many members have stated they did not want ’bombarding’ with emails or did not have email. Perhaps the best way would be to devote the beginning of each meeting to reporting on current developments both in the Society and in the town and have time for questions and answers.

What do members think of the NewsJournal? Despite many pleas over the years for contributions from members, they are rarely forthcoming and the content was inevitably provided by the same people.

The second half of the evening was devoted to Sudbury matters. These ranged from why had the ancient hedge alongside what was People’s Park been (illegally?) destroyed, to what is going to be done about the state of the boating lake near The Croft, to how long will the guard rails be around the Town Hall?

Committee member Sue Ayres was able to answer several questions through her role as Mayor. (Re the rails – because public money will be spent on roof repairs, the job had to go out to tender and this takes a long time.)

Sudbury has looked decided tatty and litter-strewn recently despite the cleaning truck going around three times a day. Shopkeepers no longer sweep the pavement outside their premises – perhaps this could be encouraged. Local authorities are strapped for cash and likely to be so for the forseeable future – perhaps it is time for more citizen involvement to co-operatively combat litter and weeds on their ‘patch’.

Inevitably, the proposed re-siting of the bus station to Girling Street cropped up and attention was drawn to the dates of the public consultations in the Town Hall in October which had been advertised in the press.

The best news of the evening was about Walnuttree Hospital. There were rumours only last week that it was to be totally flattened. However, like many rumours this one proved totally unfounded. Stephen Thorpe of the Sudbury Society Planning Group explained what the Planning Group does and said Walnuttree is being developed by a Manchester company, PJ Livesey, who will retain the Victorian core, most ‘wings’ and what used to be the Out-Patients building. (See note below and website www.pjlivesey-group.co.uk/portfolio/) However, Sam Thornton (estate agent) announced that St Leonard’s on Newton Road is now back on the market, the developers having had second thoughts about taking on both St Leonard’s and Walnuttree.

Stephen also said that everyone should be alert to what was happening and to tell him if they saw anything untoward – such as timber beams being ripped out and thrown into skips. It may be deliberate or it may be unawareness of a building’s status and importance.

Lorna thanked everyone for coming to what had been an interesting and useful session. Perhaps it is a format that could be repeated in future and more people will come and have their say.

It’s YOUR society – YOU do something! Write a piece for the newsletter, tell everyone at a meeting about something you have been involved with, like or don’t like about Sudbury. Maybe you have heard a good speaker elsewhere? Tell the committee so he/she can be booked for a future meeting. Don’t leave it all to the committee then grumble. You could even join the committee and improve/change things you don’t like. You had a chance to air your views at this forum and make a difference – but only 30 people did so. Were YOU there?








Note on Walnuttree Hospital


Revised plans have been submitted by the PJ Livesey Group who have now commenced work on demolishing the buildings which are not part of the original hospital. They have not said who the architects are but they do say they have a track record of this sort of work.


The number of residential units in the core buildings has been increased from 42 to 45 and the number of new houses from 7 to 10. These were of concern because of their height: three floors plus roof. Being smaller, they are more likely to sell and the second floor accommodation is contained within the roof space as we recommended. Furthermore, they are now entered from the main hospital building side with no integral garages, the rear gardens stop well short of the mill race to preserve the ecological qualities of the riverbank and there is no waterside path.

Within the main hospital block, apartments are a mixture of single- and two-storey which ensures that all entrances can be reached from the lift. The old Out-Patients’ building contains four two-storey apartments.


The frontage to Walnuttree Lane is maintained with two entrances, the existing one and a new one serving the ‘street’ between the main block and the new houses.


All in all, the proposals seem an improvement and I have recommended to Sudbury Town Council that they register their approval.


From Stephen Thorpe, Sudbury Society Planning Group