A planning inspector has responded to campaigners’ concerns by rejecting St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s plans to develop a green open space in Bury St Edmunds.
Since publication of the council’s proposed Vision 2031, the Water Meadows Group (BWMG) has campaigned to protect the town’s Leg of Mutton field by having it removed from the 2031 strategic plan.
The 15 hectare field beside the River Lark - which is bordered by Rougham Road, the A14 and a cycleway between Raingate Street and Moreton Hall - is among a number of recommended modifications proposed by the Government’s Planning Inspector, Roger Clewes, as part of his examination.
His draft report requires the land to be designated for informal recreation only, with no building development allowed other than to support that use.
This is in line with submissions made by the BWMG, the Bury Society and a number of Bury residents.
Andrew Hinchley, chairman of BWMG, said: “We are over the moon that the inspector has made this decision. We very much hope that St Edmundsbury will not challenge the inspector on his ruling in the eight weeks that the borough have available to respond prior to the inspector. The BWMG is now going to launch a ‘fighting fund’ to support detailed preparation for a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to purchase this land for the people of Bury.”
Alan Jary, chairman of the Bury Society, said: “This a great result and marvellous news in the final few weeks of my term as chairman of the Bury Society. The society opposed development on this land in the 1980s and has been consistent in opposing development again in Vision 2031. There is a recognised need, when town centres expand, to conserve natural open space. This area is only just over five minutes walk from Angel Hill.”
Alan added that he ‘very much hoped St Edmundsbury would now invite key groups to the table for constructive discussion’.
Will Cranstoun, honorary conservation adviser to the BWMG, said: “Although this land has been farmed for much of the last 1,000 years, there is significant ecological potential to deliver for biodiversity on the Leg of Mutton through the creation of wildflower meadows and additional woodland. Being a great wildlife corridor, the River Lark runs for half a mile between Leg of Mutton and No Mans Land where you can still see kingfisher, dragon fly and hear blackcap.”
Jillian Macready, a BWMG committee member, said:“ This land is an essential green lung for Bury and, following this great news, we call on everyone to work towards ensuring that the public can use and access this land forever.”
Mr Clewes has also refused developer Taylor Wimpey’s request to expand the Moreton Hall strategic site eastwards along Mount Road. He has included the area earmarked for a new school and the community football project within its boundaries, but stated they are not to be used for housing development.
Other modifications have been made concerning Wickhambrook, Stanton, Barrow, Ixworth and Hopton.
Cllr Terry Clements, cabinet member for planning, said: “The past three years have revealed the deep allegiance of our residents to all that is good in the borough, not least before the Planning Inspector. His recommended modifications address some of the representations made. We believe that the rigorous testing of Vision 2031 has made it a stronger plan.”
A seven week consultation on Mr Clewes’ recommended modifications begins today.
To view them in full, go to www.stedmundsbury.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/sebc-planning-policy-section/Vision-2031-Examination.cfm
Cllr John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury, said: “Vision 2031 is a comprehensive plan to help the borough manage change over the coming years. We need it, both to protect our way of life, wonderful heritage and environment, and to ensure our future prosperity with the right kind of desirable development, alongside the necessary safeguards and infrastructure.
“I am delighted that the Planning Inspector has reflected this in the recommended modifications he proposes and I would like to thank all those who have been involved in - and put so much work and thought into - this long process and who care so passionately about this lovely part of the country. I would also encourage everyone to look at the documents and take part in this consultation.”