Campaigners have warned that wildlife in Sudbury is disappearing at a frightening rate, amid calls for more green space in the town.
The Sudbury Green Belt Group met for the first time at St Peter’s on Tuesday, with a guest panel – chaired by Sudbury resident Theo Bird – invited to take questions from the audience.
The audience, numbering around 50, included rangers from Sudbury’s water meadows and conservationist George Millins, who said wildlife was disappearing at a frightening rate.
One of the key outcomes from the meeting was a desire to see an over-arching local plan created for Sudbury that highlighted key areas of open space, as well as allowing for the necessary growth of the town.
Girling Street resident Steve Hall said: “Why don’t we come up with a list of areas that need protection that can be seen when it comes to planning.”
Ralph Carpenter, an architect and panel member, said: “Sudbury needs a neighbourhood plan which can include areas for wildlife over people. Sudbury will always be fighting itself, so we need a plan.”
Several panellists and attendees emphasised the need to put pressure on the county and district councils to preserve green space.
Sudbury tree warden Jill Fisher asked where money from the development of People’s Park had gone and questioned why a piece of land could not be offered to the town as wild open space in return.
Current plans for open space at the edge of areas identified for housing, such as in Chilton Woods, were criticised as being too far for Sudbury residents to walk to, with calls for a belt of green space before any more development is agreed.
County councillor Jenny Antill explained that, by law, the county council could only offer land under market value if there was a real community benefit.
A number of ideas were raised throughout the evening, including different forms of open space, from leisure areas to grasslands and habitats for reptiles and amphibians.
Town councillor and panel member Luke Cresswell said the group now needed to come up with a list of priorities and organise another meeting as soon as possible.
The panel also included Andrew Welsh, a candidate in the upcoming county council elections, who said the purpose of the group must be to identify specific locations for green space and explain what could be done with it, rather than allowing developers to create more “manicured laws”.
Small pockets of green space in new housing developments were heavily criticised, with some people advocating using them for wild areas.
The bypass and moves to reduce traffic congestion in the town was a key concern, with the majority in attendance in support of a further relief road.
Lorna Hoey, chairman of The Sudbury Society, said: “The bypass and green space will always be a compromise.
“We need to get rid of the HGVs using Ballingdon and Cross Street and giving us all chest infections.”
Another issue raised was to have the strategic lorry route moved from the town centre.
Mr Welsh said changes on the A12 meant this was now possible, with HGVs joining the A134 at Great Horkesley and going down the northern bypass direct on to the A134 to Bury St Edmunds, avoiding the town centre.
Any change, however, would require the agreement of both Essex County Council and the Government.
The group’s next meeting will be a small working party on June 15.