Sudbury Vision builds a strong foundation for 2021 and beyond
Covid-19 may have forced a refocus of elements of the Sudbury Vision, but partners insist the town has strong foundations for recovery in 2021 and beyond.
Despite a challenging year, the vision programme for Sudbury has continued to develop, bringing together the needs of businesses, residents, visitors, sustainable travel, and culture to create a blueprint for the future.
Developed as part of the Sudbury Vision and driven by a steering group made up of local stakeholders including Sudbury Town Council, representatives from local business, the cultural sector, and the Chamber of Commerce. The Sudbury Vision programme aims to work in partnership to deliver the shared vision to ensure a bright and healthy future for the town’s residents, visitors, and businesses.
Over the last year, a number of key projects were able to progress including the launch of the Virtual High Street, a public engagement for the future of Market Hill and improvements to support active travel. This week, the new-look Kingfisher Leisure Centre officially opened its doors following a £2.4m extension and refurbishment.
Earlier this year, in response to the national lockdown, Sudbury welcomed the first Virtual High Street. Initially created by Sudbury Town Council, the Virtual High Street was relaunched with additional features in October following investment and support by Babergh District Council. The site which connects businesses with their customers, complimenting their high street business offering, now has over 100 businesses signed up.
Plans for Market Hill, which outline the potential to create a pedestrian friendly space, were shared with businesses, stakeholders, community groups and residents in the autumn. The results of public feedback are now being collated and the results will be shared in the new year.
The number of Sudbury’s cultural assets have received significant backing this year. This includes an award of over £1.6m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for the regeneration of St Peter’s Church. This project was also awarded a package of funding from Babergh District Council including a £100,000 grant from Babergh District Council, £75,000 of CIL funding and £225,000 from the LEP’s Growing Place Fund, which formed part of the required match funding. The work at St Peter’s is due to commence towards the end of 2021.
A major cultural development taking place in the town is the redevelopment of Gainsborough’s House. Benefiting from a £9m investment, including over £5m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, it will enhance the museum and create cultural venue of national significance, placing Sudbury firmly on the country’s arts and cultural map.
Mark Bills, Director, Gainsborough House said:
“The redevelopment of Gainsborough’s House will create a museum and gallery of national significance and we look forward to working with the town and other regional, national and international cultural partners to welcome more visitors. It is, therefore, very positive for us that the future and vision of the town is being considered more broadly, so visitors have even more to enjoy and experience while they are here.”
Plans are already underway to improve green access into and through the town. Sudbury was selected to receive funding from the Department for Transports Active Travel Fund which has already seen the introduction of cycle storage in the town centre. The second phase will explore the potential to create new cycle routes through the town linking key sites and open spaces. Proposals for the second phase have been published by Suffolk County Council and are now open for consultation.
Ways to improve walking routes in Sudbury is also being explored with a new creative wayfinding initiative due to launch next year.
Belle Vue Park has also benefited from improvements including a new skatepark and multi-use games area last year and more recently, new swing sets for toddler, juniors and an (inclusive) basket, sand diggers and a sand play table have been added to the play area. The bark chippings have been refreshed and landscaping around the play area is now complete. In addition, new picnic benches are due to be installed in the new year.
Around the centre of town, we continue with the master-planning of the Hamilton Road Quarter with updated proposals due to be presented to the Sudbury Vision Steering Group in 2021.
The masterplan covers several sites around the town including the current bus station and seeks to provide better connectivity between key areas such as the station to the centre of town.
Earlier this year, the Coronavirus pandemic put a halt to plans for a new hotel and restaurant in the Belle Vue area. With plans back on the drawing board and using feedback from the “What Next for Sudbury” public engagement event held in January 2020, the Hamilton Road Masterplan has been widened to encompass the sites at Belle Vue leading to the concept ideas for improving access into Park which were presented to the Sudbury Steering Group earlier in the year.
The new plans for the Park reveal how a relocated and better-connected entrance to the park could create a welcoming, accessible space for pedestrians and visitors better connecting this important area of green space with the town centre and other public spaces across Sudbury. This approach would create a dedicated space for a café with outdoor seating area and a new toilet block to be introduced to the park. Funding streams are already being explored to enable these plans to be taken to the next stage and detailed design work has commenced.
The next phase of the masterplan will be to identify which sites could benefit from investment and in particular, opportunities for the land around Belle Vue House and part of the old swimming pool site. To understand this potential, the land is currently being openly marketed and advertised with the aim of reviewing bids in the new year. Details of the marketing can be found on the Councils website
Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for economic growth and Chair of the Sudbury Steering Group, Cllr Michael Holt said:
“This has been an incredibly challenging year and we have had to adapt and change our plans because of the global pandemic. We have used the opportunity to take a fresh look at our plans for Sudbury and how best to support our businesses, residents, visitors and communities now and in the future.
“I am pleased that the cultural projects at both Gainsborough House and St Peter’s Church have moved forward, we have been started to improve opportunities for cycling and walking and we have completed a public engagement on the future of Market Hill.
“While we are still likely to meet some challenges in 2021, the vision for Sudbury has a strong foundation on which to build upon.”
More information about the Sudbury Vision Steering Group