Trust must pay £4million to save town park

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A last-ditch attempt to save a Sudbury park, which has been designated as a site for new houses, appears set to fail.

An outline planning application to create 100 homes on People’s Park in Waldingfield Road was approved in January.

Since then, Sudbury Common Lands Charity, which sold the park to the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust more than 20 years ago, has been exploring ways to buy back the land. The charity sold the area originally after it was earmarked as a location for a new hospital.

Philip Richardson, chairman of the charity, said: “Under legal rulings, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is under obligation to offer back to the original owner property that is no longer required at its current market value. This is assessed at £3.5million to £4million.”

He explained that, as the charity could not afford to buy it back, it would consider any proposals the People’s Park Preservation Association (PPPA) may have for raising funds to buy the land.

“We will look favourably on any proposals the PPPA may have before we respond formally to the NHS Trust,” he said.

But Jill Fisher, who founded the PPPA, said she was not hopeful.

“I do not think raising the money is realistic,” she said.

She added that it was disappointing that a campaign to save the park had not been given more support.

“If people wanted it as a park, they should have listened to us earlier, but they didn’t bother to write to the council and left it to someone else,” she said.

Mrs Fisher said she believed the site should have been offered back to the charity at its original price – £850,000 – more than a decade ago when the trust knew a hospital would not be built.

A spokesman for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said: “We invited Sudbury Common Lands Charity to purchase Harp Close Meadow at the earliest opportunity after first having to wait for the outcome of several legal processes.

“We also needed to gain planning permission so that we could maximise the value of the land on behalf of taxpayers.

“In line with land ownership rules, we must offer the site at its current market value, not the price which the trust sold it for in 1984. Any capital receipts which come from the sale will be reinvested into healthcare services for the communities we serve, including Sudbury.”

Sudbury Common Lands Charity has until December 4 to respond.