FOR 150 years and more, the town hall has been at the focus of Sudbury life. Though less populated and less prosperous than now, through two world wars and various times of financial strife, the town hall has been maintained for the business and social use of the townspeople.
Now it has been given over as offices for the council and the registrar of births, marriages and deaths and is longer suitable or readily available for public use.
Is that progress?
Even worse, there is now talk of the land behind the town hall being made over to a housing association for the provision of “affordable housing” (Free Press, January 5).
If the council is unwise enough to take that course it can say goodbye to its ‘investment’ of £350,000 made for the purchase with borrowed money, plus the hundreds of pounds paid out in interest since.
How will councillors explain that when next standing for election?
The land is at the commercial heart of Sudbury; it links North Street with Gaol Lane and surely has greater potential and worth than as a plot for cheap housing.
Instead of giving the land over for inappropriate use at a guaranteed loss, the council should get to work on a business plan for the redevelopment of the land and town hall.
One possible course is for businesses, fronting Old Market Place and North Street and backing the land, being approached in order to find mutual advantage in redeveloping this prime town centre site, including suitable access; perhaps with a view to attracting a large ‘anchor’ store at the heart of the town.
Any plan should not exclude the possibility of demolishing the extended part of the town hall to make space for retail use at ground level with town hall facilities being extended at first floor level to provide, once again, for the social and recreational needs of the town in a way which the out-of-town Delphi Centre (not even owned by the town council) does not do.
Times are difficult for the moment but planning for the future of this fast growing community is what is important.
The whole business needs the concentrated energy of an imaginative and purposeful council with the help of a quality town planner. Sudbury deserves no less.
Rev ANTHONY MOORE