Group looks to buy town’s ‘Leg of Mutton’ site to protect it from development

Andrew Hinchley at the site
Andrew Hinchley at the site
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An action group is looking to purchase a ‘unique’ piece of land near Bury St Edmunds town centre in an ongoing campaign to protect it from development.

The Bury Water Meadows group has submitted a pre-application to the Heritage Lottery Fund with the aim of seeking funds to buy the Leg of Mutton site to preserve it solely for open public access.

The move was revealed on Thursday during a debate about the future of the land, near Rougham Road, as part of the public inquiry into St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Vision 2031 framework for growth.

Andrew Hinchley, chairman of the Water Meadows group, said authority had not ben ‘sufficiently clear’ about what would be permitted on the land.

He hailed the area as ‘unique’ citing the views of the cathedral, wildlife opportunities and education possibilities. Mr Hinchley said the site’s landowners were aware of their plans to purchase it. Their proposals would include some woodland and wildflower meadows.

Cllr Trevor Beckwith said the council’s policy for the land was ‘so vague that any developer could come along and make a case for hard landscaping or development’.

Ian Poole, the council’s place shaping manager, said they propose to modify the policy to allocate the site for ‘a mix of amenity public open space, outdoor recreational use and buildings’.

He added that he didn’t think the council and Meadows group were ‘too far apart’ in terms of what they wanted to achieve for the site.

Alan Jary, chairman of the Bury Society, said: “I think we’ve moved considerably forward this afternoon with Mr Poole’s statement that we might not be too far adrift. What’s so sad is the opportunity to do something together hasn’t arisen. There are people out there that would love to see some good discussions with the borough.”

David Barker, representing Pigeon Investment Management, said the site should include public and private use with the opportunity for more formal facilities such as sports club pitches. When asked by planning inspector Roger Clews whether the plan should permit a wider range of development including hotels, leisure and sports uses, Mr Barker said the policy should ‘retain sufficient flexibility for a range of uses’.

The inspector will report his recommendations to the council.