UPDATED: Major blow for hopes of community-led revamp of Belle Vue

Mark Westley Photography
Community bid for Belle Vue house
belle vue house, Newton Road, Sudbury
Picture of the community right to bid 'save belle vue house' check this title.
Theodore Bird Founder and Chairman of Belle Community Bid Team, Diego Robirosa, Andrew and Caroline Brett, Anne Grimshaw, Bob Andrews, Lorna Hoey and Ralph Carpenter. ANL-150103-225838009
Mark Westley Photography Community bid for Belle Vue house belle vue house, Newton Road, Sudbury Picture of the community right to bid 'save belle vue house' check this title. Theodore Bird Founder and Chairman of Belle Community Bid Team, Diego Robirosa, Andrew and Caroline Brett, Anne Grimshaw, Bob Andrews, Lorna Hoey and Ralph Carpenter. ANL-150103-225838009

The news that Sudbury’s Belle Vue House is likely to make way for a chain hotel and restaurant has dealt a crushing blow to hopes of a community-oriented redevelopment of the site and the retention of the historic building.

The news that Sudbury’s Belle Vue House is likely to make way for a chain hotel and restaurant has dealt a crushing blow to hopes of a community-oriented redevelopment of the site and the retention of the historic building.

The 19th Century home and former swimming pool site is being sold by landowners Babergh District Council and the Free Press has seen plans for the site to be turned into a Premier Inn hotel and adjacent Beefeater restaurant. It is also likely to spell the end for Belle Vue House, with the council agreeing last year the house could be demolished due to the high cost of refurbishment and redevelopment.

Babergh confirmed last week that they had identified a preferred bidder, but will not reveal who until it ties up the legalities of the deal.

The site was the subject of a much-publicised community bid from the Sudbury Community Estate Bid group.

After hearing the decision, Estate Bid chairman Theo Bird, who confirmed the group’s bid had not been selected, said: “I think Babergh should go look at themselves in the mirror.

“I think it’s a disgrace. We as council tax payers used our own time and money to see if we could give Belle Vue and the park another 100 years of life and we found local money to develop the house.

“It’s a real slap in the face for the community. Babergh have got their priorities wrong.”

Lord Phillips of Sudbury, who only this month said that the destruction of the building would be “mindless vandalism”, and who supported the community bid, said that he was “gutted” about it being “left to the mercies of a commercial developer”.

He said: “We live more and more in a culture which pays lip service to history, aesthetics and character.

“I suppose we get what we deserve. But I persist in believing that, as with The Sudbury Corn Exchange, where the council gave consent for Tesco to demolish it to erect one of their lovely stores, the owners and the councillors were totally out of step with local opinion, commonsense and our heritage.”

Another disappointed party is Hardwicke House Group Medical Practice, Suffolk’s largest GP surgery, which had applied for funding from NHS England for a new purpose-built integrated health and social care hub at the Belle Vue House site.

David Cripps, Harwicke House practice manager said: “Obviously, we are very disappointed that Babergh has not supported what we believed to be a strong, community focused bid and our plans to build an integrated health and social care hub hosting services in-line with Simon Stephens’(CEO NHS England) Five Year Forward View and the Government’s aspirations for closer working between health and social care.

“Like other practices, the number of patients we serve has risen inexorably for several years and demand on services has increased more.

“Without new premises we will, sooner rather than later, reach capacity and safe limits.”

A spokesman for the two national brands, owned by Whitbread, said: “A Sudbury site is in our pipeline planner for hotels but the site name is yet to be confirmed,” he said.

“The site will have a Beefeater restaurant and is scheduled to open in June 2017.”

The designs show the restaurant on the former swimming pool, and most-recently, BMX park site.

The site will have 78 car parking spaces, with access via Newton Road at the heavily congested Belle Vue Junction.

Work is being carried out to try to alleviate some of the traffic issues at the junction.

Belle Vue Park will be left untouched and remain in Babergh’s possession.

The Sudbury Community Estate Bid team was hoping to save the building and redevelop it into a community hub, while retaining the Citizen’s Advice Bureau at the site.

The group also planned to open out the park, allowing it to be viewed from the town centre.

Mr Bird added: “I sincerely hope they keep the building.

“As it is a publicly owned asset if we are not happy [with the chosen bid] we will pursue it with the ombudsman.

“It’s a great shame. We want to thank everybody that got involved.”

Last week Babergh announced a buyer for the site had been selected by its strategy committee.

Babergh said bids were evaluated against set criteria, including economic and community benefits such as job creation and supporting the tourist and visitor economy in Sudbury and viability of the proposals.

A spokesman for the council said: “The sale, and subsequent redevelopment of the site, was identified as an opportunity that could potentially provide major visitor, tourist and economic benefits to Sudbury, as part of the district council’s commitment to developing the local economy.”

Simon Barrett, portfolio holder for growth and the local economy, said: “After a thorough evaluation process where all tenders for Belle Vue House and the old swimming pool site were considered in detail, we have decided on its disposal to a preferred buyer. Their bid was best able to deliver on the criteria set.

“As landowner we have a role in securing the best possible outcome for Sudbury and the district as a whole, which will see the local economy grow and provide jobs for local people, improve links to the park and town centre and preserve the open space of the formal gardens and park for our community. While our evaluation process looked at price and quality, it was never simply about income generation for the council; equal weighting in the process was given to the benefits the development would bring to the community and the local economy.”

The land, which is owned by Babergh District Council, was listed for sale in early 2015 as it looked to provide opportunities for regeneration within one of its key market towns.

The Babergh spokesman added the council was committed to helping find the Citizens Advice Bureau a new home, with it currently using Belle Vue House. The Bureau would have been retained in the building via the community bid.