Plans for the future of Sudbury town centre – including a hotel and restaurant at Belle Vue – are back on the drawing board, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Babergh District Council announced today that elements of its ambitious blueprint for the town centre unveiled back in January – including the hotel and restaurant next to Belle Vue Park, the redevelopment of Belle Vue House and the regeneration of the Hamilton Road quarter - will now need to be revisited as a result of the global crisis.
Negotiations with the council’s potential partner for the hotel and restaurant broke down this week as they pulled out of a number projects across the country – giving the council, its Sudbury Vision partners and the local community an opportunity to take stock and reconsider the best options for the town.
Babergh District Council leader Cllr John Ward, said:
“We know how frustrating this news will be for many in Sudbury who were keen for work to begin, while others will welcome a reprieve and a chance to rethink. We are still fully committed to working with our partners, including Suffolk County Council, Sudbury Town Council, St. Peter's, Gainsborough’s House and the local community to deliver a ‘joined up’ vision for the town and support Sudbury’s economic recovery.
“The impact of COVID-19 means our potential partner for the hotel and restaurant has pulled out and rather than ploughing ahead or trying to find another occupier, we need to take a sensible approach and review what’s next in this new landscape. This also opens up our options for Belle Vue House and the Hamilton Road quarter to ensure we are making the best possible use of council-owned land to meet the needs of the town for generations to come.
“I know we are all hoping that the economy recovers quickly and that either the previous hotel partner or another will be in a position to restart expansion plans in a couple of years and be able to provide Sudbury with the visitor accommodation it so desperately needs. We won’t be rushing into any decision soon but we will now be able to look at all opportunities to develop the Hamilton Road site and derelict land at Belle Vue.”
The council has already contacted its Sudbury Vision partners, developers and community groups involved in plans for the possible future uses of Belle Vue House to inform them of developments. The Sudbury Vision partners will now discuss next steps, with the council pledging to continue to keep everyone fully updated on plans.
Cllr Ward added: “Several hundred people came along to our What Next for Sudbury exhibition in January and invested time and effort in giving us their views – we want to assure everyone that this effort wasn’t wasted. All feedback has gone to the Sudbury Vision partners to help inform what happens next and ensure that our plans not only boost the town’s economy, but also meet the needs of the community as we recover from the local impact of this global pandemic.”
In the meantime, the council is focusing on supporting Sudbury through the distribution of grant funding schemes to businesses, working with Sudbury Town Council to build on its innovative virtual high street for the town’s retailers, and working with the town council, traders and community wardens to ensure the Sudbury’s shopping areas and public spaces can safely re-open as lockdown eases with a range of guidance, support and checklists available for local businesses on the website. It was also announced this week that the council had been successful in securing a slice of government emergency funding for additional cycle parking on Market Hill and other locations around the town to encourage cycling as an alternative to driving or public transport.
Community groups in Sudbury have been amongst those across Babergh and Mid Suffolk receiving a share of more than £100,000 in emergency funding, as well as logistic support from the council, to support their vital work during the crisis – and Babergh District Council has demonstrated its continued commitment to other elements of the town’s vision, such as St. Peter’s regeneration, with the announcement this week that the project is to receive £75,000 in Community Infrastructure Levy funding to support the church’s ambitious transformation into a cultural hub for activities and events in the heart of Sudbury.