People's Park inquiry begins

A PUBLIC inquiry into the future of a valuable park in the centre of a Suffolk town has opened.

Dave Gooderham

A PUBLIC inquiry into the future of a valuable park in the centre of a Suffolk town has opened.

Campaigners fighting to save People's Park in Sudbury defiantly held aloft protest banners outside the town's Victoria Hall before the inquiry started this morning.

The area, officially known as Harps Close Meadow and valued at close to £2million, is owned by the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust which wants to sell the land for housing to help ease its historic debts.

But in his opening statement, Tom Cross, barrister on behalf of the People's Park Preservation Association, said residents wanted the area to remain as a green space.

Mr Cross said: “For as long as any of today's residents of Sudbury can remember, the land which they have known and continue to know as the People's Park has been enjoyed by inhabitants across the locality.

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“Ever since times now long passed, it was a park for the people. They thought that those who owned the land would not try to stop them using it in the way that they had done for so long.”

Mr Cross said the inquiry would hear from 19 witnesses giving evidence that a “wide variety of lawful sports and pastimes” were held on the land over the last three decades.

Vivian Chapman QC, acting on behalf of the trust, said the issue had been the “biggest story in Sudbury since the Domesday Book”.

He told Edwin Simpson, the Suffolk County Council-appointed barrister leading the inquiry, that any housing development built on the site would include 40% retained as a public open space.

The inquiry, which is due to last four days, will advise the county council whether the land should be registered as a town or village green and be prohibited from sale.

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