We are stewards of old buildings

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I AM deeply saddened by Babergh Development Committee’s approval of the Prolog development at Chilton because even if it had promised 1,000 jobs it would still be on the wrong site. I believe there will be widespread shock when these two giant buildings appear on the landscape in the triangle formed by the 16th century Chilton Hall, the 15th century St Mary’s Church and Sudbury’s long-awaited new health centre.

Few of us can picture the scale of structures from plans, and architects’ drawings reflect what clients want to show, but comparisons are easier to grasp. Engineer Steve Graham, who lives near the site, calculates that the capacity of the warehouses will be equivalent to a stack of 1,750 double decker buses, information he was denied the opportunity to give to the development committee.

This site has long been zoned for employment use but who in the 1980s could have envisaged it occupied by the largest development on the Chilton Industrial estate despite it being on the most sensitive site, close to the English Heritage listed manor house, its garden and the church and in full view of the health centre. Even the present planners concede that it could cause significant damage to heritage assets.

You might ask ‘so what?’

After all Chilton Hall is privately owned and St Mary’s Church is redundant. The answer is that both have played an important role in people’s lives for at least five centuries and still do. Chilton Hall is steeped in history. Three of Sudbury’s MPs lived at Chilton Hall, one a great-grandfather of Sir Robert Walpole, our first prime minister. The estate workers were armed to defend it for the parliamentarians in the Civil War, and its present owners, who served the last government, have made the garden a wildlife haven and open it to many groups and for events.

Fifteenth century St Mary’s is the successor to a church recorded in the Domesday survey.

The effigy of a Robert Crane, who lived at the time of the Wars of the Roses, has reclined on his tomb for more than 600 years, his armour exquisitely carved in detail down to the smallest buckle. St Mary’s is no longer a parish church, being in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, but it is still very much in use with a schedule of services plus a programme of events managed by its trustees and the Friends of St Mary’s who include people living in Sudbury and elsewhere.

History in all forms local, national and family, is said to interest more people than football, you only have to look at the output on TV to see that, and collectively we are all stewards of these buildings for our lifetime. It is our duty to hand them on to those who come after us, hopefully in a better condition than we found them and certainly not dwarfed and overshadowed by large industrial buildings. Future generations will surely not view us kindly.

And as for those 500 jobs Prolog claim its development will create, time will judge that statement though the company admits that almost half its present work force is made up of casual workers. These are taken on as needed to fulfil the company’s commitments and are not the regular, well-paid, skilled jobs that really benefit the local economy.


Christopher Lane