Miracle needed to save People’s Park as plea for pledges is made

SAVE OUR PARK: Jan Osborne is hoping people will come forward to help an appeal to keep People's Park as an area of open space.
SAVE OUR PARK: Jan Osborne is hoping people will come forward to help an appeal to keep People's Park as an area of open space.
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An appeal has been launched to raise £4million in a last-gasp attempt to prevent homes being built on a Sudbury park.

The People’s Park Preservation Association (PPPA) is seeking to raise the money to save the park in Waldingfield Road, which has outline planning permission for 100 houses.

Sudbury Common Lands Charity, which sold the land to the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust more than 20 years ago, has been offered the chance to buy it back.

During a meeting at Sudbury Town Council on Tuesday, Tony Platt, chairman of PPPA, said every effort should be made to keep the park as a place residents could enjoy.

“The plan would be to restore it – it would not be left as it is – and make it into a wildlife meadow,” said Mr Platt.

“I know it is an extremely large sum, but we have to try. There have been cases in the past where we have said that and then not done all we can.

“We owe it to Sudbury to at least try.”

The land was originally sold to the NHS trust for £850,000, under the impression it would be used as the site for the town’s new hospital.

However, it emerged in 2003 that the land would not be used to provide health services, and in January the trust had outline planning permission approved. This increased the value of the site, which has been assessed at between £3.5million and £4million.

Mr Platt said he wanted the town council to act as the holding group for any pledges for the appeal, but admitted raising the funds would be an uphill battle.

“The idea is to ask for sums of money to be pledged,” he said.

“If by some miracle we get large pledges, we can start looking at collecting the money.”

The Sudbury Common Lands Charity has indicated it would back the PPPA appeal and the organisation would have six months to raise the money.

Despite supporting the idea, councillor John Sayers said he was sceptical about its chances of success.

“I think it is a wonderful vision and it would be marvellous if it were achieved, but I can’t see where the money would come from,” he said.

Andy Welsh said the council had to be clear it was simply holding pledges and was not raising money for People’s Park.

Simon Barrett questioned if buying the land was a good use for such a large amount of money.

“This would be spending £4million on a field where people walk their dogs,” he said. “I think that would be hard to sell to the people of Sudbury.”

Jan Osborne said she was still disappointed the NHS trust had not offered the land back to the Common Lands Charity when it first knew it was surplus to requirements, as the price would have been lower.

“That is still a big bug bear, but we have to give it our best shot,” she said.