Sudbury: Fears wildlife area may be a ‘liability’

The Sudbury wildlife site before Sainsbury's built its store last year

The Sudbury wildlife site before Sainsbury's built its store last year - Credit: Archant

Ownership of a wildlife area behind a supermarket in west Suffolk is likely to be transferred to the local town council, despite fears that it could become a “liability”.

The conservation area to the rear of Sainsbury’s in Cornard Road, Sudbury, is home to a number of rare reptiles, amphibians and plant species.

As part of a previous planning agreement dating back to 2006, the town council agreed to assume responsibility for the patch. When plans for the supermarket were passed in 2011, Sainsbury’s said it would preserve the area for wildlife and pass the land on to Babergh District Council or a nominated organisation.

Sainsbury’s, which completed the store on the former William Armes site last November, signed an agreement to give £10,000 to whichever group took on the plot, providing the land transfer took place within 18 months of the store opening.

While the town council is still keen to acquire the area with a view to allowing local schools to use it, some councillors have expressed concerns that the land is a potential health and safety hazard, which could become a liability for ratepayers to maintain.

John Sayers, who has worked there in a voluntary capacity, said extensive work was needed on the perimeter fence and surrounding trees to make the area safe.

He added: “As it stands, there’s a risk of fire and of kids getting in there, which is a worrying situation.

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“If you are going to maintain that area to a standard where schools can use it, that is going to take more than £10,000. It’s a huge long term commitment.”

Town clerk Sue Brotherwood said residents of Newton Croft, whose houses back on to the area, had complained about trees on the perimeter. But she added: “I think it would still be a lovely area for us to have, but the council can’t possibly consider taking it on unless the work is done.”

A Babergh spokesman said the £10,000, secured under a section 106 planning agreement, was expected to come through in the near future. He said Sainsbury’s was aware that Sudbury Town Council wanted work to be carried out at the site to bring it up to an acceptable standard before the official handover. He added that the time frame for completion of the agreement had not yet elapsed.