Saving People’s Park could cost £5million

STANDING IN THE WAY: Jan Osborne is campaigning against plans to build 100 homes on People's Park in Sudbury.
STANDING IN THE WAY: Jan Osborne is campaigning against plans to build 100 homes on People's Park in Sudbury.

The price of buying back People’s Park could increase to around £5million if permission for 100 homes is granted, according to a town councillor.

West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust has applied for outline planning permission for 100 houses on the site, also known as Harp Close Meadow, near Waldingfield Road.

The trust is set to invite Sudbury Common Lands Charity, which sold the park for £850,000 in 1984, to buy it back and keep it for Sudbury residents to use, but campaigners fear this will only happen once permission has been granted and the cost, to be met by fundraising efforts, has increased.

Jan Osborne, a Sudbury town councillor supporting the efforts to retain People’s Park, said: “At the moment, the whole site is valued at between £2.4million and £2.8million.

“It is becoming very evident that the trust is going to wait until it gets outline planning permission before making an invitation. If it gets that permission, the figure will easily double.”

This would deal a heavy blow to potential fundraising efforts, according to Mrs Osborne.

“I am not a pessimist, it isn’t over until the fat lady sings but if it doubles in price I can’t see us doing it – not unless a nice big benefactor came along and said ‘I agree with what you’re doing, I’d like to preserve People’s Park’ – that’s what we need,” she added.

Mrs Osborne, who is working alongside the People’s Park Preservation Association (PPPA), said the group was looking at purchasing a piece of land owned by the Secretary of State, which forms an area of open space and is part of the proposed housing site in the outline planning application.

It is believed to be worth around £1.2million in its current state.

She added that if People’s Park could not be purchased, campaigners would be aiming to get “the best outline application we can”, with fewer houses and more open space.

Mrs Osborne also praised the work of Jill Fisher, founder of the PPPA, who has recently stepped back from the campaign.

“This is really Jill’s project, her aim in life has been to protect this land from development and she has worked so hard,” she said. “Without her, this campaign wouldn’t be happening.”

The group’s remaining members and other supporters will meet next week to devise a fundraising and management plan for the park, should the invitation to purchase be made.

Philip Richardson, chairman of the Sudbury Common Lands Charity, said: “We’ve had a letter from the NHS trust to say it would be contacting us, but until we are formally invited to bid, our trustees have said they will issue no further statements.”

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust explained that, when an invitation is made, it will be on behalf of the Secretary of State as well, so that the whole plot will be offered for sale.

“As the NHS is funded by the public, we have a duty to maximise the value of the land so that we can reinvest the money into healthcare services for the communities we serve, including Sudbury,” he said.

“As such, it remains our intention to offer the land for purchase with planning permission in place, as this will bring the biggest benefit to taxpayers.”

The outline planning application will go before Babergh District Council’s development committee on December 19.