Expert to submit listing bid to ‘save’ Belle Vue House
A community funding bid to apply to make Belle Vue House in Sudbury a listed building received its target amount within 24 hours.
Babergh District Council has already chosen a preferred buyer for the 19th century building, which the Suffolk Free Press understands would mean its almost certain demolition to make way for hotel chain Premier Inn and restaurant chain Beefeater.
But Theo Bird, who was chairman of the unsuccessful community bid to buy the house from Babergh, has now helped organise a new bid to get the building listed. A page set up on the Crowdfunder website targeting £600 to pay for a consultant to submit the application to Historic England, reached that amount within a day.
Mr Bird said that if the building was listed it would guarantee its survival, but also stressed that it was not about blocking development in Sudbury.
He said: “The community feedback we’ve had is that we should have tried to put a listing on it years ago. That would have been a lot more simple.
“Premier Inn is welcome, but if we start bulldozing the town centre what is there for tourists to visit? Sudbury has to look after what it has got. To be a destination it has to look after its heritage assets.”
Last year Babergh agreed the house could be demolished due to the high cost of refurbishment and redevelopment. It said its preferred bidder would deliver the “best possible outcome” for Sudbury and district. For legal reasons, Babergh has not yet made public the preferred bidder’s identity.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury is backing the campaign to list and preserve Belle Vue House.
He said: “It seems bizarre that it hasn’t been listed in the past. But with fine Victorian buildings now being more highly valued I sincerely hope that the listing authorities will do what they ought.
“For those who are worried about not having a hotel at Belle Vue I actually think the existing building, without the modern additions, could be a huge asset for the main dining, bar and service rooms. And I speak as one who was chairman of a hotel group not so long ago. The modern bedroom facilities could be put in the adjacent woodland.
“There are others who made bids for Belle Vue House where they made bids that would have preserved the building.
“I want to encourage anybody who wants to see it listed to contact your district councillor.”
Mr Bird added that the building’s architects, Spalding and Knight, also designed the RADA Academy in London, which is listed and was saved from a similar fate. Mr Bird said the same consultant who applied to list the RADA building will be used to try to list Belle Vue House.
He said the work of local resident Anne Grimshaw in researching much of the history of the building has saved on consultants fees. The application form will be submitted to Historic England in due course.
According to Historic England, decisions usually take about six months.
An attempt to list the building was made in 2008, but Mr Bird said new historically important information, such has who the architects were, has been unearthed since then. The crowdfunding bid now has a new target to raise funds for a consultant to scrutinise any future planning application for the site. Visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/listing-application-belle-vue-house