‘Let’s not give up on Belle Vue bid’

Andrew Phillips, Lord Phillips of Sudbury and Theo Bird outside Belle Vue House ANL-160903-064902009
Andrew Phillips, Lord Phillips of Sudbury and Theo Bird outside Belle Vue House ANL-160903-064902009

Lord Phillips of Sudbury believes the fight for Belle Vue House should continue after a bid to have the house listed by Historic England failed.

Lord Phillips, a staunch supporter of the Sudbury house being retained, called the decision to allow for the Victorian building to be demolished a scandal.

He likened it to the decision in the 1960s to allow the former Corn Exchange building to be knocked down to make way for a Tesco until a public fightback saw the building saved. It is now used as the town library and tourist information centre.

“I’m certainly going to have another go. It’s a scandal to demolish that building. It’s the best Victorian building in Sudbury and it was given to the town.

“It baffles me how in 2016 a building of that quality can be at risk. It’s all down to the greed of major corporations. On the whole the only thing they care about is coining it in.

“That’s why we have planning laws and councils, to protect us from these predators.”

Lord Phillips said he was sure the building would be ‘a gift’ to any hotelier with aesthetic sense.

He said if renovated back to its original state it would allow for a variety of elegant function rooms, bars and restaurants, with space on nearby sites such as the adjacent wood or former swimming pool site for an accommodation block.

Led by Theo Bird, a crowdfunding bid was launched earlier in the year to have the historic 19th Century home and former swimming pool site listed and saved.

Landowner Babergh District Council has agreed that the building can be knocked down, with it widely believed that it will be bought and subsequently demolished to make way for hotel chain Premier Inn and a Beefeater restaurant.

Planning consultants FullerLong submitted the listing application to Historic England in May, with campaigners hoping this would protect the building.

But on Friday Mr Bird told the Free Press: “Sadly although Belle Vue House has merits they have decided not to list it - which means it will be demolished.”

There is a 28-day appeal window but Mr Bird said they had decided against this.

“Having discussed with our consultant we’ve decided not to. We as community members made a massive effort to try and save the house but certain councillors at Babergh seem hell bent on demolishing it - so let them.”

The report concluded: “Belle Vue House has strong local architectural and historic interest as a good example of a substantial, architect-designed, Victorian house with a rare surviving garden feature but it falls short of meeting the criteria for listing in a national context.”

Simon Barrett, Babergh portfolio holder for business growth and increased productivity, said that Babergh did not want to knock it down but that no economically viable proposals had been made to save and make use of the building.

He added: “Just because it hasn’t been listed doesn’t mean it will definitely be knocked down.”

Lord Phillips said the town was in danger of losing some of its most important community buildings.

He described the view that the building was economically unviable and not worth saving as “complete tosh,” adding: “The sort of thing we are likely to be left with if some purchasers get their hands on it would be the cheapest, dullest building imaginable. They will just shove one up.”