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St Edmundsbury: Victory for Bury Water Meadows Group over Leg of Mutton land

06:00 15 April 2014

Independent planning inspector Roger Clews

Independent planning inspector Roger Clews

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A campaign group is “over the moon” a planning inspector has recommended a piece of green open space which is “part of the character” of Bury St Edmunds should be protected from development.

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Yesterday, St Edmundsbury Borough Council revealed which changes independent planning inspector Roger Clews had put forward for its draft blueprint for future growth in the borough.

Known as Vision 2031, the plans would pave the way for about 6,000 new homes in Bury.

The Bury Water Meadows Group was formed to safeguard the Leg of Mutton, to the west of Rougham Road, which they believe “should be fully preserved for future generations as a green lung for Bury”.

Mr Clews has recommended the Leg of Mutton should be designated for amenity public open space and informal outdoor recreation and has taken out of the draft policy “buildings associated or required for outdoor recreation”.

This would prevent sports pitches or a fitness centre from being built at the site, which is a 15-hectare plot of agricultural land in private ownership.

Andrew Hinchley, chairman of the Bury Water Meadows Group, said the group was now going to launch a ‘fighting fund’ to support detailed preparation for a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to purchase this land for the townspeople.

Alan Jary, chairman of the Bury Society, which is part of the Bury Water Meadows Group, said: “This is a great result and marvellous news in the final few weeks of my term as chairman of the Bury Society.

“The society opposed development on this land in the 1980s and has been consistent in opposing development again in Vision 2031.

“There is a recognised need when town centres expand, to conserve natural open space. This area is only just over five minutes walk from Angel Hill.”

The group has said there is “significant ecological potential” to deliver biodiversity on the Leg of Mutton, for example through the creation of wildflower meadows and additional woodland.

Ian Poole, lead officer for the preparation of the Vision 2031 documents, said: “We saw a tremendous opportunity to open this land up for public use be it recreational, informal open space and so on, particularly as there will be 1,200 houses being built across the road there, so providing a really good link from there to the town centre.”

He said the council had not been “a million miles” from campaigners when it came to the future use of the land. He said Pigeon had been proposing a hotel on the site, but the council had refused to change the draft policy to allow this.

Councillor John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “Vision 2031 is a comprehensive plan to help the borough to manage change over the coming years.

“We need it both to protect our way of life, wonderful heritage and environment, and to ensure our future prosperity with the right kind of desirable development, alongside the necessary safeguards and infrastructure.”

Councillor Terry Clements, St Edmundsbury Borough Council cabinet member for planning, said: “We believe that the rigorous testing of Vision 2031 has made it a stronger plan.”

Public consultation on the planning inspector’s recommended changes, which also relate to Haverhill and the rural areas, began yesterday and will run until May 30.

To comment on the proposed changes visit http://www.stedmundsbury.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/sebc-planning-policy-section/Vision-2031-Examination.cfm

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