Businessman commits to gifting historic house to Sudbury

Belle Vue house

Belle Vue house - Credit: Archant

A businessman has signed a legally binding agreement pledging to donate a historic house to the people of a west Suffolk town – if the district council agrees to sell it to him.

The document, drawn up by Lord Andrew Phillips, ties property developer Barry Drury into gifting Belle Vue House to the Sudbury community, if he puts in a successful bid.

The 18th Century building, which has links to the Gainsborough family but is not heritage listed, has just gone on the market.

The owners, Babergh District Council, are inviting applications from businesses and organisations for the property. Officers have said that if a suitable sustainable use for the building cannot be clearly demonstrated, the authority would allow it to be bulldozed and replaced with a modern alternative.

Hotel chain, Premier Inn, has expressed an interest in the site, which is being looked at as part of a regeneration project for the whole area.

Mr Drury said: “The people of Sudbury love a bit of history and I have been approached by hundreds of people who would like to keep Belle Vue House.

“The money Babergh would get from selling it to a hotel chain would soon be spent and we will have lost another piece of history. I am offering a last chance for people to come out and support the idea of retaining Belle Vue House before it’s too late.”

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Lord Philips successfully fought a campaign during the 1960s to save Sudbury’s Corn Exchange from being demolished and replaced with a Tesco supermarket. He believes there is similarly “overwhelming support” in the town to keep Belle Vue House, and described Mr Drury’s pledge as a “game changer”.

He said: “Barry has now committed himself to giving Belle Vue House to the community so everyone has a common interest in making the best use of it. It is one of the most generous acts in the modern history of this town.

“His commitment means that Babergh can’t just sell it to the person who makes the most cash because they have to take into account the fact that if Barry buys Belle Vue House, it will come back to the community.”

But Simon Barrett, Babergh’s lead member for economic development, said if Mr Drury makes a formal bid, it will be treated the same as all other submissions, and will still have to include a detailed plan of how the building will be used to enhance Sudbury.

He added: “It’s not about money for the building – it’s about how much it can generate as an ongoing benefit to the town in terms of its tourist attraction or its economy.

“Unfortunately much like the former (Uplands Middle) school, when people find out how much it’s going to cost to run these old buildings, they are not interested.

“It’s all very well saying he’s going to give Belle Vue to the town, but who is going to take responsibility for it?”

Anyone with ideas to form the basis of Mr Drury’s submission to the council is asked to contact the Sudbury Society.