Tributes are paid to town project manager Tom McConnell

A man credited with revitalising and modernising Sudbury when he was the market town project manager has died.

Tom McConnell, of Melford Road, was a successful businessman who took up the role of town manager in 2005, tasked with finding ways to encourage business as well as improve the town.

During his two-year tenure, he got tens of thousands of pounds of investment from various organisations for Sudbury, including £90,000 from the group Action For Market Towns.

His legacy includes the Talbot Trail, Sudbury’s heritage red information signs, the BMX track and the revamping of Siam Gardens to include displays about the history of weaving.

He was also responsible for securing significant funding for the feasibility study into the Hamilton Road area .

Mr McConnell, 69, lost his four-year battle with kidney cancer on Sunday at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds where he had been for a week. He leaves behind his wife Marjorie and sons Paul, James and daughter Jane.

After moving to the area in 1973, he founded and operated two companies on the Chilton Industrial Estate which specialised in printing signs on vehicles. At their peak, the two firms employed more than 100 people and operated from three factories in Sudbury, Lichfield and Scotland.

He played for Sudbury Rugby Club, became a committee member and then both chairman and president, overseeing the rebuilding of the clubhouse after it burned down in 1985.

He was instrumental in the final negotiations and subsequent sale of the old club and grounds to a developer to provide new pitches and a clubhouse, as well as substantial club funds.

Tributes have been paid to his success in improving the town.

Lesley Ford-Platt, chairman of the Sudbury Market Town Partnership, said: “I am very saddened to hear this news. Tom had a vision of how Sudbury should grow and the physical signs of his success are present for all to see.

“He was able to enthuse people with his vision and he was extremely successful in getting lots of grant money for the town. He was an absolute pleasure to work with.”

Jacqui Howells, from Sudbury Town Council, said: “We were very sorry to hear of the death of Tom following his long battle with illness.

“Tom was a very caring person who always worked extremely hard for the good of the town and will be sorely missed.”

Don Reekie, press officer for Sudbury Rugby Club, said: “Tom will be remembered for his involvement in many aspects of the club’s history.

“He was a leading innovator in rebuilding the clubhouse at Moorsfield after the previous clubhouse had been destroyed by fire and he will be best remembered for his role, together with Bob Newton, who spent many years negotiating with stakeholders on the sale of Moorsfield and the purchase of the club’s new home at Whittome Field.

“Whittome Field will be a lasting legacy and tribute to his many years of service.”

John McMillan, president of Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, said he would be remembered for his enthusiasm.

“The first time I met him was when I interviewed him for the town manager’s role,” he said. “He became a close friend; he was a lovely bloke.”