Petition launched to fight planned sale of land at Belle Vue House and former pool
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
A community action group in Sudbury has raised more than £4,000 in its fight to block the sale and revamp of Belle Vue House, which looks set to be sold off and turned into housing.
Belle Vue Action Group is pursuing a judicial review to try to block the commercial bid for land at Belle Vue, which was approved by Babergh District Council's cabinet last month.
The group has already raised more than £4,000 and its petition has been signed by over 500 people, gaining support and momentum in Sudbury and the surrounding areas.
The bid will see Belle Vue House becoming two residential properties, while new-build retirement living will be created on the pool site, where many people in the town will remember learning to swim.
The council will retain the other part of the pool area to create a new accessible park entrance with a café and new toilets.
Money from the sale of the house will be used to fund the new entrance.
Campaigners from the Belle Vue Action Group have engaged legal advice to challenge the move and have called for the cabinet’s decision to be reconsidered before full council.
Polly Rodger Brown, spokesman for the group, said its original e-petition submitted on the council's website was rejected.
"We won't stop until we get the sale of Belle Vue House reconsidered," she said.
"This is not just a small protest, we want to uphold democracy as we feel very strongly about it.
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"Belle Vue House has a huge place in the hearts of people living in Sudbury, with the swimming pool in use for nearly 50 years. The place has been left to fester for a really long time, and has been derelict for too long."
In normal times the group would be having meetings and fundraising in the streets, but due to Covid-19 the group's effort has been restricted to online.
Polly said the group would ideally like to stop the sale of Belle Vue House, with it being reopened to the public in some capacity.
"Our hope would be to take down the red wall, as it makes the park very secret, and incorporate the swimming pool area back into the park," she explained.
"It has always been a part of the park for people in Sudbury and should be classified as public space.
"It will be wrong to turn Belle Vue House into flats, as although it is not a listed property it is a community asset."
She added that people in the town are fed up of the plans and instead want to see the space enhanced to increase footfall to the area and "make the park bigger and better".
She suggested a café being introduced in the house along with a community space, and said they will "not give up".
The council had been pursuing plans to bring a hotel and restaurant to the former pool area.
However, those talks collapsed last summer when the economic impact of Covid-19 forced the hotel chain to walk away from the deal.
That prompted a fresh marketing campaign between December and February in which six bids were put forward.
A spokesman for Babergh District Council said: “The land around Belle Vue House, the car park and part of the old swimming pool site were marketed in an open and transparent way, and all the bids we received were as a result of this marketing, and were evaluated equally and fairly against the same criteria.
“No part of Belle Vue Park is being considered for development and over the last 18 months Babergh District Council has made significant investment in the park including a new skatepark, multi-use games area and play equipment.
“Babergh District Council has committed to reinvesting up to 100% of the capital receipt from the land sale to fund the development of the new park entrance that will not only provide a welcoming, fully accessible public space but will also provide an improved connection to the town centre.
"Should any funds remain from this, they will be retained for further investment in the park.”