Green belt group launches campaign against possibility of 235 new homes being developed near Sudbury Health Centre
Development in Sudbury is becoming “piecemeal random sprawl”, an environmental group has warned, as it launched a petition against another potential major housing development.
The West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) held a public consultation event at Sudbury Health Centre on Tuesday, regarding possible options for unused land off Church Field Road, including the possibility of building up to 235 new homes.
At the same time, members of the Sudbury Area Green Belt Group (SAGBG) handed out leaflets from a stall near the health centre, seeking signatures for its campaign against housing on the land.
The group has also written an open letter to Babergh district councillors, urging them to reject any development on this particular site, although no formal planning application has been submitted yet.
The site, which has been used as green space by members of the public for years, splits its ownership between the WSFT and warehousing company Prolog, and has been the subject of previous planning battles.
A spokeswoman for the WSFT confirmed the trust is exploring possible planning options for the Church Field Road site, as per its local plan developed in 2012, following public consultation about four sites in Sudbury deemed surplus to NHS requirement.
But the SAGBG says a master plan for development in Sudbury and Great Cornard must be created urgently, and it called on Babergh District Council to safeguard local green space, much of which it claims has already been lost.
The campaign says it accepts the Chilton Woods development, which will include more than 1,000 new homes, as a “rational and justifiable plan”.
However, it believes adding plans for 130 homes at the former orchard site off Waldingfield Road, plus this proposal near the health centre, is unacceptable, arguing the area cannot cope with the current “piecemeal spread” of development.
Nick Miller, SAGBG secretary, told the Free Press: “There are a lot of ways in which Sudbury is getting eaten up, and not leaving any bits behind for future need.
“You can question all sorts of things about this. Who will be living in these houses? Where is it all leading?
“This is the whole problem – there is no plan for Sudbury. It’s all just piecemeal and it’s all developer-led.
“Everything is just left carved up with no co-ordination. It’s a sort of unstoppable sprawl.
“Nimby-ism does not come into it. Nobody objects to building per se – this is about where it goes.
“There does need to be some development. The Chilton Woods plan is not perfect, but it is reasonable. It shouldn’t be Chilton Woods, and then everything else on top of that.”
But the WSFT emphasised no application for the Church Field Road land has been put forward at this time, and it wants to hear feedback from as many people as possible, before any decision about the site’s future is made.
Craig Black, WSFT director of resources, said: “The NHS has a duty to look at how to make its land and buildings work better.
“Selling or generating income from surplus property, or land that is not being used for patient care, creates funds that we can invest to improve healthcare services.
“This is in line with Government recommendations, and any capital receipt from the sale of sites is reinvested into meeting the healthcare needs of local people.
“Sudbury is one of six core community areas that we’re focusing on in our alliance work.
“This means we’re looking at what healthcare requirements Sudbury might need now and in the future, and are working with the local community to shape and develop what healthcare could look like moving forward.
“This focuses much more around prevention of illness and improving health and wellbeing early, by providing co-ordinated care and proactive support that people can help keep themselves well.”
The trust is also launching an online consultation for the proposals, where people can submit their views. To do so, go to www.vincent-gorbing.co.uk/consultation.
The Church Field Road site in Sudbury was previously the proposed site of a new £50 million warehouse development by Prolog.
The proposals, which promised to create up to 500 new jobs, were approved by Babergh District Council’s planning committee in 2014, but later quashed by a judicial review in 2016, following an appeal by opponents to the High Court.
Opposition to the warehouse plans claimed the development would have had an adverse impact on heritage assets, including Chilton Church, and cause damage to the site’s natural wildlife and habitats.