New river walk in Bury St Edmunds as 10-year project reaches fruition
PUBLISHED: 11:00 26 January 2019
A stretch of river in Bury St Edmunds is being brought into public use with the creation of a nature walk to encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors.
Once completed, there will be a walkway running alongside the River Lark from Barton Hill to the train station to create an extension to the Lark Valley Path.
The project, which has been 10 years in the making, has come to fruition after British Sugar agreed a long-term lease with St Edmundsbury Borough Council for a piece of land running alongside the sugar factory and the river.
Work will take place to clear vegetation and put in new planting at the site, which is now managed by the council.
Andrew Hinchley, chairman of the Bury Water Meadows Group, is credited with driving the initiative forward.
The group, whose volunteers carry out improvement works along the rivers Lark and Linnet, recently bought a piece of land at the Barton Hill end, which will help provide access.
Mr Hinchley said it was “important” with the expansion of the town to retain green spaces in the middle for people to be able to enjoy the outdoors.
“It has been a long-held ambition both of the group and of the council to bring this area back into public use and achieving environmental improvements.
“I am delighted that British Sugar is able to support this wonderful initiative by transferring this stretch of land to the council.
“We look forward to working with the council over the coming months to make the necessary improvements that will enable this area to be opened to the public.”
He said with the help of Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill, who had a discussion with British Sugar bosses, they got it “over the line”.
Joanna Rayner, cabinet member for leisure and culture at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said the idea to enhance this stretch of the River Lark and open it up to the public was first mooted around 10 years ago.
“Our strategy is to encourage more walking and cycling where we can and what better way to do that than by creating an attractive nature walk alongside this stretch of river,” she said.
“This is great news. I understand that there is still quite a lot of work associated with getting the route prepared and hope that this will be done in time for an opening in spring 2020 or earlier if conditions allow.”
Mike Blowers, British Sugar Bury St Edmunds factory manager, said they were “delighted” to support the project to bring the land into public use.
“As a business, our contribution to the communities we operate in is very important to us, and we’re proud to be helping on a project which will support healthy and active lifestyles while also protecting and enhancing the environment,” he said.
“We will continue to work with everyone involved to minimise any disruption from the creation of the new walkway.”
The council has written to residents who live near the land and will be speaking to them about the works in order to minimise any impact that it may have.
The Bury Water Meadows Group will work to maintain the privacy of residents, some of whom have gardens backing onto the site, by appropriate planting on the river bank at key points.