Legal battle is on over fight to save parkland

Public consultation of plans for Cox's Park in Hadleigh''Pictured: Gavin Talbot
Public consultation of plans for Cox's Park in Hadleigh''Pictured: Gavin Talbot

Campaigners, councillors and local residents attended a public inquiry this week into plans to build houses on part of a public park.

Babergh District Council wants to build three houses on an area of land behind East House in Hadleigh, known as Cox’s Park.

Formerly used as a community centre, East House has been empty for years, and the plan is to convert it to housing.

In addition, the council wants to use an area of land behind the house to site three detatched houses, which would make the site more attractive to developers, with planning permission for the extra homes.

At the meeting in the Guildhall on Monday, the inspector holding the inquiry on behalf of Suffolk County Council, Alexander Booth, said he was hearing representations on whether the area should be registered as a town or village green.

If, after hearing all the submissions, he reports that he thinks Babergh has a valid case in objecting to the registration, and the county council accept his report, then the objectors’ case will be lost.

But if he feels that the application is a possibility, it could lead to a full public inquiry.

Lawyers representing Babergh attended Monday’s meeting and gave oral evidence during the morning, while objectors had their say in the afternoon.

The inspector will now spend at least four weeks looking at written evidence before he considers his decision.

Leading the objectors was Gavin Talbot, who formed pressure group Friends of Cox’s Park.

He and others have been fighting the proposed development for three years.

He has organised events on the park and raised a petition with over a thousand signatures.

Mr Talbot told the Free Press: “Babergh’s planning strategy says they will not allow building on green space.

“We do need more housing, but you don’t do that by building on a park, and you don’t do it if it breaks your own planning guidelines.

“If you break your own guidelines, what do you say to other developers? They will challenge these decisions.” (to refuse planning permission for similar applications.)

Mr Talbot says he has yet to find a single person in Hadleigh who agrees with the homes on the park plan.

“Local councillors tell me this is one of the big issues people in the town have been talking about, and it has cross-party support.”

He added: “We are not anti-council, we just want to see the park kept. We have always said to Babergh that if you want to resolve this, we will meet with you and come up with something that is acceptable to both parties.”

Babergh councillor Kathryn Grandon said: “Cox’s Park is one of the few green spaces in Hadleigh, and with its central location is enjoyed by the whole Hadleigh community. The public inquiry to determine its fate appeared to be very fairly managed by the inspector, but it was unfortunate that we were not able to hear the final outcome as the matter had to be adjourned due to late submissions and therefore, a need for Gavin Talbot to have the opportunity to respond in writing.”

Mike Evans, Babergh District Council’s strategic director for people, said: “Babergh is aware of the strength of local feeling for East House and the surrounding land. We await the determination of the public inquiry, which will determine whether East House Meadows, locally referred to as Cox’s Park, can be classified as a village green. The council has already suggested that they wish to review options for East House and the surrounding land once the outcome of the inquiry is known.”