Motion calls for ownership of Belle Vue Park to be transferred from Babergh District Council to Sudbury Town Council
Calls for control of Belle Vue Park to be returned to Sudbury have been sounded, with councillors stating this could help the park become “the jewel in the Sudbury crown” again.
A motion will be submitted at a meeting of Sudbury Town Council on Tuesday, calling on the authority to enter into negotiations with Babergh District Council to transfer ownership of the park.
Proposed by Labour councillor Luke Cresswell and seconded by independent Ellen Murphy, it states Belle Vue Park has been “neglected for years” and argues park land should be reserved for amenities and leisure, not “mass development or privatisation”.
The motion comes in light of continued local concerns about the future of Belle Vue House, as well as the park’s former swimming pool site, where proposals for a hotel development have been outlined in Babergh District Council’s Vision for Prosperity document.
Cllr Cresswell told the Free Press he did not have all the answers, but believes many local people have potential ideas that would be better suited for the park.
“This motion is about shaping the future of Belle Vue Park and bringing the park back under local control,” he said.
“The district council cannot be trusted to make the right decisions for our town and the town council must, therefore, stand up and be counted.
“Once again, the park could be the jewel in the Sudbury crown.
“We need to get this right – it will affect the whole town.”
John Ward, leader of Babergh District Council, said he would wait for Sudbury Town Council to determine a course of action before responding to the motion.
But he added that the two authorities have already developed a joint vision for Sudbury, and stated they would continue to engage with community groups to deliver the best result for the town.
“Babergh District Council enjoys a close relationship with Sudbury Town Council,” said Cllr Ward.
“We already share a vision for the town’s future – working together on the Sudbury Vision for Prosperity – to ensure the town continues to thrive and that its assets, such as Belle Vue Park, are protected for generations to come.”
Cllr Cresswell argued that the town council could access financial grants that the district council cannot, and he claimed that, with the exception of a recent investment, both Belle Vue Park and Belle Vue House had been “starved of funding for over a decade”.
“What this motion seeks to do is bring residents into the decision-making process and ensure whatever changes do take place are for the benefit of the community, not private companies,” he said.
“Personally, I would like to see the former swimming pool site incorporated into the main park with a new pedestrian entrance on the St Peter’s side.
“We also need to focus on flowers and the beauty of the park. Let’s make it something to be proud of.
“On a broader level, when Sudbury Borough Council was abolished in 1974, the vast majority of power, assets and responsibility was handed over to Babergh.
“I want to start getting some of those back in to local control.
“It seems unlikely we can ever get a form of truly local government back in that form, but the more local, the better.
“It’s ridiculous that decisions for Sudbury can be made by people living on the coast. They do not understand our town the same way.”
Cllr Murphy, who has seconded the motion, added: “I fully support Cllr Cresswell’s endeavour to save Belle Vue, a venue that has been enjoyed for numerous years by residents and visitors alike.
“Unfortunately, the time spent on prevaricating on its future use by Babergh District Council has only added to the demise of the house and park and, no doubt, has had a cost implication to the taxpayers.
“It is now time to make our views known and to reclaim Belle Vue for the pride of future generations.
“There is so much development and redevelopment taking place in Sudbury that we are at risk of losing our identity as a market town. Moving with the times does not mean or necessitate destroying a legacy.”
In recent weeks, local businessman Barry Drury reiterated his interest in purchasing Belle Vue House and gifting it to the community, stating the district council had failed to come up with practical solutions.
Babergh leader Cllr Ward stated that the aim for the house, as described in the shared vision developed with Sudbury Town Council, is to see it sold for sympathetic residential conversion, but the district council remains open to all realistic offers.
He said: “We also described how the former swimming pool and a small part of the park would be developed into a hotel and restaurant – helping the local economy grow, while maintaining the vast majority of Belle Vue Park as a green, open space, with fit-for-purpose facilities for the whole community.
“Any such development would be subject to planning permission, with a full public consultation as part of this process, allowing everyone to see detailed plans and have their say.
“In the meantime, we have invested £150,000 in Belle Vue Park, with the completion of the multi-use games area in November and the new skate/BMX park.
“We are listening to all community groups and will continue to do so, in order to do the best for Sudbury and Babergh.”
More by this authorThomas Malina