‘A Sudbury green belt would be good for wildlife and people’
Sprawling development is slowly but surely swallowing up the last wild spaces in the north and east of Sudbury, according to worried campaigners.
People who live in the south of the town are within easy reach of its pride and joy ... the glorious river meadows.
But those on the other side of town are not so lucky. Their few remaining ‘green lungs’ are disappearing fast.
Remnants of undeveloped land on the edges of towns can be vital for animals as well as good for people.
They provide some of the few good habitats left for dwindling species like hedgehogs and house sparrows.
Nature enthusiasts in Sudbury are so concerned they are now calling for a green shield to halt the spread of wall to wall houses and factories.
The new Sudbury Green Belt group is launching a last-ditch appeal to save some uncultivated green space on the north east fringes of the town.
Their aim is to fight for changes in the official local planning blueprint to prevent buildings spreading outwards without a break.
Babergh District Council’s Local Plan, which sets the principles for the development of the area, is due for review this year.
The green belt group was formed last summer. It has a core of eight people, and many more supporters sympathetic to its aims.
Nick Miller, warden of the Tiger Hill nature reserve at Assington, is in the forefront of the campaign.
“We’re drafting a submission to the Babergh Local Plan and will release that draft in March, and hold a public meeting for people to have their input,” he said.
He became worried after looking at the Churchfield Road area of Sudbury’s Chilton industrial estate.
“It started as a wildlife issue from my point of view, because there are little pockets of wildlife in among the factories.
“But when I started looking at the map and seeing all the bits earmarked for development, I realised there was virtually nothing left at all on that side of town.
“I started getting people together when I realised what a loss it would be if what I call the Prolog field was built over.”
The field in Churchfield Road is where market support firm Prolog had intended to expand its Sudbury operation, until planning wrangles scuppered the idea.
“All the land on that side of town originally belonged to the county council” said Nick, who also produces a Sudbury wildlife newsletter.
“You would think there was a lot of scope for green areas as it was publicly owned, but a lot of it has been sold off.”
There are some green areas in the proposals for the massive new Chilton Woods development to the north of the town.
“It has a proportion of green, but it seems more like landscaping than natural areas,” said Nick.
“Of course we need houses and factories. I wouldn’t argue over that.
“But why does it have to be just added onto Sudbury in a sprawling manner? Why can’t there be a green gap between the bypass and further development?”
“Cornard has bought farmland over the years and made the Country Park. With Sudbury it has always been, we have the meadows, why do we need anything else.
“But the more you build out to the north and east the further people will be from the meadows. It’s miserable when you compare it to what Sudbury could have.”
He said the ideal would be areas where recreation and nature co-existed side by side.
“Space for wildlife should also be space for people. They are not mutually exclusive – quite the reverse.
“There should be space for kids to muck about in, and for recreation like walking.
“Space to mess around in, rough ground for wildlife, the opposite of all that landscaping.
“All those fields up by Churchfield Road could be made into something gorgeous. You could have things like butterfly gardening, land for rough adventure, a dog-free picnic zone.
“There’s space enough for everything from barbecues to barn owls.”
He condemned the decision to build homes on People’s Park, the site once allocated for a Sudbury hospital that was never built.
“People’s Park is a disgrace, when you think how fantastic it could have been.
“All the land between the Tesco roundabout, above St Bartholomew’s Lane, is built up now. I think it’s just sprawling along because no-one has had the imagination to say no.
“When I speak to people about the issues they are just demoralised. They see no scope because these planning decisions are made and they see them as a fait accompli.
“Decisions have been made but they are not irreversible just because something is included in the local plan. The plan could be changed.
“I asked people I knew were interested in the issues where an alternative site for factories might be.
“The area near the garden centre around Valley Road and Newton Road was the most popular choice.
“I know it’s open country, but I think if it meant saving some green land around the town people would be more receptive.
“After all, at one time the plan was to turn it into a gravel pit.”
Doing conservation work Nick often meets dog walkers who have driven out from town. “You shouldn’t have to get in the car to go for a walk,” he said.
On Saturday February 4 wildlife and environmental groups will be manning a green stall at the crafts and gifts sale at St Peter’s in Sudbury from 10am to 4pm.