Sudbury: Lifeline for People’s Park supporters

A GROUP has been offered a last minute chance to buy a piece of NHS-owned land in Sudbury and potentially prevent 100 homes from being built at the site.

Harp Close Meadow - or People’s Park as it is known locally - which has an important history dating back to 1874 has been at the centre of controversy for more than a decade.

Town residents want to keep it as a public open space, while the current landwoner West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust wants to sell the land for housing so it can reinvest money from the sale into healthcare services in the local community.

The trust has just submitted an outline planning application to Babergh District Council for 100 homes at the Waldingfield Road site. But it has revealed it has also written to the former land-owners, Sudbury Common Lands Charity, offering them a chance to purchase the site at the current market value.

Last night, the charity’s chairman, Philip Richardson, who has been involved in the lengthy negotiations over the site for more than 10 years was unavailable to comment on the offer.

However, campaign supporter Jan Osborne said: “The Common Lands trust needs to act quickly and submit its request to purchase the land back before outline permission is granted for housing on the site.

“If it gets approval for new homes, the cost of the land will go up considerably and we will be bidding against other people.

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“If the trust moves fast on this, then we stand a chance of getting it at a more achievable price and we already have a fundraising group set up to try to raise the money to pay for it.”

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital confirmed the Common Lands trust had been offered first refusal of the site. But he added: “We have a duty to the Department of Health to maximise the value of the land and if the Common Lands trust does not purchase the site, it remains our intention to enter into a competitive tendering process which will be open to all bidders.”

The trust’s latest plans were released for public comment in June and were criticised by local groups because of the number of dwellings planned for the site and the proportion of public open space.

The WSH spokesman said the proposed scheme had been submitted in line with Babergh’s local plan, which specifies 40% of the site should remain as public open space.

Sudbury town council planning committee is due to discuss the application at a public meeting on Monday evening at 6.30pm. A date is yet to be set for Babergh to make a decision about the scheme.