Council to sell popular meeting place

MORE than 100 elderly people are to lose their treasured meeting place after a council controversially decided to sell off a historic home and part of a town centre park.

Dave Gooderham

MORE than 100 elderly people are to lose their treasured meeting place after a council controversially decided to sell off a historic home and part of a town centre park.

The Stour Valley Centre, which caters for 150 people from across Sudbury, has been based at the town's Belle Vue House for 25 years.

But last night centre bosses said it would probably close after Christmas.


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Their warning follows a decision by Babergh District Council's strategy committee to sell off parts of Belle Vue Park - including the 1780s house.

The authority claimed only a small part of the green would be affected, but residents fear the move could pave the way for the entire park being lost.

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Valerie Moulton, 79, centre chairman, said: “Running these sessions has been a life's work for me but I am so distressed about the future.

“It is a sad day for the town and there is a great deal of worry. Losing any part of Belle Vue will be a massive loss and the Stour Valley Centre provides a great service to the town.”

Derelict land on the council-owned site will be offered to the Hardwick House GP practice and - in a separate development on the same site - Belle Vue House is expected to be offered in a land swap deal with developers McCarthy & Stone, which wants to build retirement homes there.

This would in turn free up land for a mixed development in Francis Road.

But residents throughout the town have hit out at the proposals and will today march through the town as part of a protest organised by 15-year-old Michael Irwin.

Damian Thomas , of Newton Road, said: “These sites may be at the entrance to the park, but it shows the desire of Babergh to sell off assets and once it starts down this course we should view the whole park as under threat.”

Nick Ridley, chairman of the strategy committee, denied any accusations that the council had acted in an undemocratic or secretive manner and stressed that only a small part of the green space would be affected.

He said: “Only a line of shrubs between the old swimming pool site and the Belle Vue House site is likely to be included in any development - the rest will be left untouched and possibly receive some additional improvements to make them even more attractive to users.”

Mr Ridley said Babergh was initially approached by agents acting on behalf of Hardwick House and that the outline concept offered “significant benefits” to residents in the town.

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