WHY ARE BABERGH RUSHING THROUGH PLANS TO SELL BELLEVUE HOUSE? By Angie Bentley, SudSoc Press Officer
The need for our local authorities to be transparent about their vision for Sudbury’s future has been a key concern of the Society in recent months. We believe it is essential they share their goals, detailed designs and timescales (eg for Market Hill, Chilton Woods to engage the local community and garner support.
We have therefore been much dismayed to learn that Babergh has advertised the proposed sale of land immediately surrounding Bellevue House in the lead up to Christmas with objections closing on 8th January (tomorrow). We want to know - why the rush and the lack of any incentive to prospective developers to try to conserve and restore Bellevue House?
Look at what can be achieved with the splendid rebuild of Goldsmith’s Mansion after the fire, as well as the sensitive redevelopment of the St Leonard’s and Walnuttree former hospital sites to new housing. Surely Bellevue House, 150 years old this year, deserves similar respect and attention?
We are concerned about multiple aspects of the proposed sale, including:
- The boundary line is near the front wall of Belle Vue House, cutting it off from the park and limiting its conversion potential. Without any protection measures in place, the likely outcome is demolition with nondescript flats with no local relevance plonked in its place. Why risk such a disappointing outcome when we know that architects could do a fantastic job of renewing this locally listed heritage asset?
- There is no request for design concepts to be submitted along with the site purchase bid to enable everyone to assess the value of the offer.
- The timescale of 22nd January for bid submission is very tight even without Xmas holidays and Tier 4/5 restrictions. Advertising a land sale of this significance to Sudbury over the festive season is almost certain to be limited in reach and effectiveness, attracting bids of suspect quality.
- The boundary line includes the only current vehicular access into Belle Vue Park – how will any sale impact future proposals for the rest of the Park, café and integration with the town?
Sudbury has had several significant heritage wins on the basis of championing its claims as a historic market town – the new National Centre for Gainsborough and St Peters Redevelopment have together attracted over £6.67million of Heritage Lottery funding. How can Babergh support these projects and at the same time, take steps that actively endanger another of Sudbury’s locally listed heritage assets? If attracting visitors to our heritage and history in terms of art, culture and silk weaving makes economic sense, let’s not write off Belle Vue House.
This headlong rush to sell the land seems totally at odds with Babergh acting responsibly to gain the best outcome for Sudbury. The park is a much loved and vital feature of the town and Belle Vue House is an intrinsic part of it. The plan to sell off the top section of the Park around Belle Vue House to the highest bidder divides the park, risks the demolition of part of our built heritage and compromises the park’s future as a valuable public open space.
Let’s pursue instead proposals that offer a good chance of restoring a fantastic old local building using modern design skills and renewing our vital green spaces for us all to have access to.
In conclusion, the Sudbury Society has formally objected to the advertised sale of land around Bellevue House and would encourage all Sudburians to join us. Write to Babergh, contact your local councillor or local MP and let them know what you think!
As part of our drive to hold our local authorities accountable for the decisions they are taking that will affect our town, we have launched a new Society website and social media platforms to make it easier to share news, planning issues and for new members to join. Please check out www.sudburysociety.org.uk or via Facebook @sudburysociety, Twitter @SudSociety and Instagram sudburysociety. Photos: with thanks to Anne Grimshaw