Belle Vue Park hotel and restaurant plans collapse amid economic impact of coronavirus crisis
- Credit: Archant
Divisive plans to develop a hotel and restaurant in Sudbury have collapsed after the hotel chain involved withdrew from talks because of the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Babergh District Council had planned to redevelop the old swimming pool adjacent to Belle Vue Park into a hotel and restaurant, with Premier Inn believed to be among the hotel companies it was in discussions with.
But Conservative council leader John Ward confirmed that the authority would now have to go back to the drawing board on its ambitious blueprint for the area after negotiations with a potential hotel partner had broken down.
It also impacts the future use of Belle Vue House and the Hamilton Road quarter, which were both linked to the Belle Vue Park development, although Mr Ward has stressed that other projects like Gainsborough’s House and St Peter’s would continue unaffected.
He said: “We know how frustrating this news will be for many in Sudbury who were keen for work to begin, while others will welcome a reprieve and a chance to rethink.
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“We are still fully committed to working with our partners, including Suffolk County Council, Sudbury Town Council, St Peter’s, Gainsborough’s House and the local community to deliver a ‘joined up’ vision for the town and support Sudbury’s economic recovery.
“The impact of Covid-19 means our potential partner for the hotel and restaurant has pulled out and rather than ploughing ahead or trying to find another occupier, we need to take a sensible approach and review what’s next in this new landscape.
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“This also opens up our options for Belle Vue House and the Hamilton Road quarter to ensure we are making the best possible use of council-owned land to meet the needs of the town for generations to come.
“I know we are all hoping that the economy recovers quickly and that either the previous hotel partner or another will be in a position to restart expansion plans in a couple of years and be able to provide Sudbury with the visitor accommodation it so desperately needs.
“We won’t be rushing into any decision soon but we will now be able to look at all opportunities to develop the Hamilton Road site and derelict land at Belle Vue.”
A spokesman for Premier Inn said: “We have an aspiration to bring a new Premier Inn hotel and restaurant to Sudbury and have been looking for suitable locations in the town.
“As part of this process, we have had conversations with several landowners though we had not reached an agreement on any particular site.
“We will keep looking for an appropriate location for our brands in Sudbury and other locations in Suffolk as we continue to grow Premier Inn and our restaurant brands across the UK and Ireland.”
It marks a significant setback for the council’s bid to grow the town’s economy, which includes an array of regeneration projects.
It announced a ‘Vision for Prosperity’ in 2018 and followed it up with a two-day future of Sudbury event at the start of the year.
Mr Ward added: “Several hundred people came along to our What Next for Sudbury exhibition in January and invested time and effort in giving us their views – we want to assure everyone that this effort wasn’t wasted.
“All feedback has gone to the Sudbury Vision partners to help inform what happens next and ensure that our plans not only boost the town’s economy, but also meet the needs of the community as we recover from the local impact of this global pandemic.”
Discussions on the future use of Belle Vue House, which had included ideas ranging from a community health and wellbeing centre to private sheltered housing, cafe and heritage centre, had been ongoing on the expectation that a hotel and restaurant near the park were to be built, meaning those plans will have to be reconsidered.
It also raises questions over the Hamilton Road quarter, which was another council-led regeneration scheme.
The council confirmed those involved in the various projects had been contacted.
Robert Lindsay, Green group leader at Babergh District Council, had already called for the project to be halted amid the financial uncertainties of Covid-19, and last month said: “We should give up on the fantasy of building a Premier Inn in Sudbury before we spend any more money on it.
“By borrowing to build the hotel for Premier Inn, we are taking all the risk.’’
Mr Lindsay feared if something went wrong the council would be left with no tenant and a pile of debt.
“The deal’s merits as a regeneration project are doubtful to say the least, since all profits it makes will not go into the town but to distant shareholders.”
The project had caused some concern from people in the town, who feared it could lead to a loss of some the park’s green space, but the council said there would not be a loss of the park and its amenities.