Bowling green's listing as 'community asset' could block housing plans
PUBLISHED: 11:26 12 November 2019
Campaigners hope to have blocked plans for housing on a former bowling green by securing the site as a 'community asset'.
Residents in Melton Park have been seeking to protect the green for community use since 2017 - but increased their efforts in September after Hopkins & Moore submitted an application to build three homes on the site.
The developer said the green had been out of use for a decade - but its application faced scores of objections, including from Melton Parish Council.
Opponents highlighted a Section 106 agreement, signed by Hopkins Homes - a company closely affiliated with Hopkins & Moore - which pledged to protect the site. It was agreed as part of Hopkins' redevelopment of the St Audry's Hospital site in the late 90s. Opponents warned change of use could have "wider implications" for other protected sites.
Faced with mounting opposition, Hopkins & Moore temporarily withdrew the application to consider comments by East Suffolk Council.
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But tensions were inflamed last week after workmen began clearing the site with a tractor and blocking an unofficial access route.
Hopkins said the clearance was "routine maintenance" - but Christopher Hutton-Williams, who lives nearby, said the timing of the work seemed to show "total disregard" for the community asset application.
Having since heard of the bid's approval, Mr Hutton-Williams said residents felt "excited". "It shows what's possible when the community gets together," he said.
The residents will consult about potential uses for the site, ranging from allotments to tennis courts. It is unlikely to become a bowling green again due to cost issues.
Melton Parish Council and district councillor Rachel Smith-Lyte hope to meet with Hopkins later this month to learn more about its plans. Both the council and Ms Smith-Lyte criticised the developer's recent site clearance, which they said had angered residents.
A Hopkins Homes spokesman said the site was not "suitable or justifiable for nomination as an asset of community value".
He sought to reassure residents the site work was routine maintenance. Although an unofficial shortcut had been cordoned off, he said the main footpath was still clear. Hopkins can still appeal the site's status as an asset of community value.