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Councillors urge rethink on future development at Belle Vue in Sudbury after hotel proposals collapse

The collapse of hotel development plans near Belle Vue Park in Sudbury has prompted calls for a major rethink of the site’s future use, with several councillors questioning its appropriateness for such a scheme.

Babergh District Council confirmed on Thursday that it must go back to the drawing board, after the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic scuppered proposals to build a hotel and restaurant at the former swimming pool site.

Negotiations with its potential collaborator for the hotel scheme – believed to be Premier Inn – broke down last week, as the partner was forced to pull out of numerous projects across the country.

Concept image of the proposed hotel and restaurant development next to Belle Vue Park. Picture supplied by Babergh District Council. (37211525)
Concept image of the proposed hotel and restaurant development next to Belle Vue Park. Picture supplied by Babergh District Council. (37211525)

John Ward, Babergh District Council’s leader, said the authority will now review the options for redeveloping the derelict land at Belle Vue and the Hamilton Road area, in light of the current financial landscape.

He added that they will not rush to any decisions, but remain hopeful that the hotel scheme can be restarted in a couple of years, if the economy is able to recover quickly.

The announcement has raised questions about whether the old pool site could be repurposed as community green space, or whether a hotel would be better suited to another location in the town.

Concept image of the proposed hotel and restaurant development next to Belle Vue Park. Picture supplied by Babergh District Council. (37211528)
Concept image of the proposed hotel and restaurant development next to Belle Vue Park. Picture supplied by Babergh District Council. (37211528)

Sudbury mayor Jack Owen said he personally questioned the decision to use this land for a hotel, but added that he hopes the collapse of the plans will not harm the opportunity to redevelop the nearby Belle Vue House into a community facility.

“Many Sudbury people will be delighted that it has fallen through,” he told the Free Press. “I have always accepted that Sudbury needs a hotel for the future development of the town, but have argued that Belle Vue wasn’t the place.

“The Hamilton Road area would be better placed, but what also needs to be taken into account is that, assuming the Chilton Woods development gets going, there is a hotel planned for there.”

The development of a hotel and restaurant adjacent to Belle Vue, and the regeneration of the Hamilton Road quarter, are two key components of the Vision for Sudbury blueprint, which was outlined at a public exhibition earlier this year.

Sudbury town clerk Ciaran Griffin confirmed he has arranged meetings with officers at Babergh District Council to discuss how the latest news will affect the vision blueprint and how best to proceed.

The district council also confirmed that it has contacted its vision partners, developers and community groups involved in plans for the possible future uses of Belle Vue House, and has pledged to provide regular updates.

Babergh leader John Ward added: “Several hundred people came along to our What Next for Sudbury exhibition in January and invested time and effort in giving us their views – we want to assure everyone that this effort wasn’t wasted.

“All feedback has gone to the Sudbury Vision partners to help inform what happens next and ensure that our plans not only boost the town’s economy, but also meet the needs of the community.”

Meanwhile, town councillor Louise Fowler, who campaigned against the hotel plans, told the Free Press it is now important to take an alternative approach, so the derelict land at Belle Vue is developed in a way more suited for community use.

“The current pandemic has shown us even more the importance of outdoor space for both physical and mental wellbeing,” said Louise, who is also a member of the Belle Vue Park, Sudbury – Rescue, Restore and Revive campaign.

“There are many in the community that would like to see the front of the park opened up, more green space incorporated and facilities for families updated and added.

“The edge of a community park was never, in any way, appropriate for a hotel, so let’s now ensure that this space is put to much better use and the project to improve this area is funded more ethically.”

Trevor Cresswell, who represents Sudbury on both the town and district council, argued that the opposition parties at Babergh had warned for several months about the financial struggles of Premier Inn – thought to be the prospective hotel partner – but he claimed this “seemed to fall on deaf ears”.

He also argued that any future plans for the site needed to have the support of the majority of residents, citing negative public feedback about the current hotel design and how it fits with wider proposals for Belle Vue Park.

“There is no pleasure in saying we told you so,” he said. “It’s not me personally not wanting a hotel, although I would like the hotel in another position, and not taking one of the few green spaces we have for future generations.

“This space can and should be developed for everybody in the town and the surrounding villages.

“Before any more decisions are taken, or things get to this point and thousands of pounds are spent on consultations, let’s do a proper survey of the people of Sudbury.

“I realise you cannot please everybody, but you have to please the majority of people. We all want a vibrant and thriving town.”

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