Residents in park protest march

ANGRY residents have marched on a Suffolk town protesting against moves to sell off part of a much-loved park.

Laurence Cawley

ANGRY residents have marched on a Suffolk town protesting against moves to sell off part of a much-loved park.

Last week Babergh District Council's strategy committee decided to put parts of Belle Vue Park, in the centre of Sudbury, up for sale.

It claims 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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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.

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But the organiser of Saturday's march, 15-year-old Michael Irwin, said the park belonged to the people and was an important part of Sudbury's heritage.

He said: “There were between 200 and 300 people there, it was really good. We went from the park around the one-way system twice and then demonstrated outside the Town Hall, near the Mercury and EADT offices.

“The park is important because it is a huge part of Sudbury and it has just the same rights to stay in tact as Gainsborough House. It is a big part of the town for everybody who has grown up or lived in Sudbury.

“I think this is only the beginning - we are hoping to do another march in about a month's time. There are a few people saying this isn't going to do anything but the councillors are elected by the people for the people. I hope they listen.”

The council's decision has already led the Stour Valley Centre, which provides a meeting place for 150 elderly people at Belle Vue House, to warn the centre might close after Christmas.

Centre chairman Valerie Moulton, 79, said she was “distressed about the future” and said the council's decision would be a “massive loss”.

But speaking to the EADT last week, Nick Ridley, the council's strategy committee chairman, said only a small part of the green space would be affected.

“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,” he said. “The rest will be left untouched and possibly receive some additional improvements to make them even more attractive to users.”

Mr Ridley said the council 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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