Town park inquiry continues

A TOWN park at the centre of a row over whether it should be converted into housing has no “particular wildlife or botanical interest”, it has been claimed.

Dave Gooderham

A TOWN park at the centre of a row over whether it should be converted into housing has no “particular wildlife or botanical interest”, it has been claimed.

Peter Scott, a former member of the Sudbury Common Lands Trust, downplayed the importance of People's Park in comparison with other sites owned by the organisation.

During the third day of a public inquiry that will decide the future of the site, officially known as Harps Close Meadow, the hearing heard conflicting evidence over how the land has been historically used.


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Mr Scott, a trustee of the area until it was acquired by health bosses for a potential new hospital, said a mix of fencing and hedging was in place during the late 1980s to stop residents accessing the land.

He said: “The wire fencing was stock proofed as there were cattle on the land at the time and it was regularly maintained.

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“A ranger was employed but spent very little time at People's Park. This meant that any informal activities carried out on the land were tolerated as there was no one there to stop them.

“The land at Harps Close Meadow was only ever rough grazing or shrubs. I am no expert but I don't think there was any particular wildlife or botanical interest and the trustees were keen to keep the public off the land.”

Tom Cross, barrister on behalf of the People's Park Preservation Association, said surveys had proven that there was “potentially high wildlife value” on the land and questioned Mr Scott's claims that he had rarely seen any dog walkers or children playing on the land.

The site, which was also subject to litigation in the 1990s, was then transferred to the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust which wants to sell the land for housing to help pay historic debts.

Steve Moore, the trust's former director of facilities and estates, said thousands of pounds had been spent in the last few years fencing off the land with numerous warning signs also put up.

The inquiry, due to be completed tomorrow and including a site visit, will advise Suffolk County Council on whether or not the land should be registered as a town or village green and be prohibited from sale for development.

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