An angling club has hit back at criticism and insisted it is not holding back the development of a riverside footpath linking Sudbury and Great Cornard.
The River Stour footpath project has been ongoing for more than 15 years, with negotiations for the final part of land, owned by the Sudbury and Long Melford District Angling Association, still not complete.
On social media pages the club has been criticised by some as the cause of delays in the delivery of the footpath.
Monies were set aside for the path as part of a Section 106 agreement with the developer when the Bakers Mill development was agreed to.
John Weddup, the club’s secretary and treasurer, said the club had offered a solution to Babergh and was waiting to see if there could be a resolution, just like everybody else.
Mr Weddup’s first involvement with the club began 15 years ago and he remembers discussions taking place with Babergh District Council then over an official footpath linking Great Cornard at the Bakers Mill estate on Dove House Meadow with the existing River Stour path network to Sudbury.
Mr Weddup said a figure for the 50-or-so yards owned by the club had been put to Babergh in July, but since those ‘positive’ talks the club had received no contact.
This was despite recent council statements reporting that negotiations were continuing.
Mr Weddup explained fishing would be affected along the stretch of land for its 300 members.
He said: “We don’t give a damn either way. We had an agreement before so we felt we should consider it [selling the land].”
Mr Weddup said that there had been an original agreement for the land around four years ago after years of delays.
Complications in finding the original trustees of the club delayed the project further, despite Mr Weddup and members insisting some of the previous trustees were no longer alive and had been replaced a decade previous.
Eventually this was accepted and the contracts were signed by the club.
Mr Weddup says that then in January 2014, while waiting for Babergh to sign the contracts, the club’s previous chairman Hugh Smith died.
“Of course once he died it null and voided all negotiations,” said Mr Weddup.
It was not until summer 2015 that the club was asked again to look at selling the land.
It is only during this period that Mr Weddup feels the club was guilty for slowing the process.
“I was never that happy with the offer we got. They wanted it but for next to nothing and we weren’t too happy with the promises on offer,” he said.
“For around six months we weren’t in negotiations for the first time in 15 years.
“But that is a minute period of time. It should have been completed six months before.”
The club owns quite a large plot of land and the fishing rights between Sudbury train station and Cornard lock.
“I couldn’t see any advantage to us,” he added. “There were other people not keen on it.”
However, having previously agreed the sale Mr Weddup justified it to members through the work the club could carry out using the profits.
The club again offered the strip of land for a set figure, which they believed would be agreed by Babergh, or instead said the whole plot the club owned could be available.
However, Babergh have decided against buying the whole plot.
In July the club met Peter Garrett, corporate manager for countryside and public realm for Babergh and Mid Suffolk, to discuss the sale of the small strip that prevents the link up of Bakers Mill with the current path network, with Mr Weddup saying he believed it would be agreed.
“We haven’t heard anything since then,” he said. “Yet we seem to get the blame.”
Mr Garrett said: “The current position is we are having the land formally valued and will make a new offer next month and the ball will then be in their court.
“We’ve had no response back to them as I only wanted to do that when we’ve got a concrete offer to try and seal the deal.