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Bury St Edmunds: Rugby club targets Leg of Mutton land for expansion

14:20 24 May 2014

Land known as the Leg of Mutton in Bury St Edmunds.

Land known as the Leg of Mutton in Bury St Edmunds.

Martin Lightfoot

The future of a coveted piece of land in Bury St Edmunds has taken another twist after the town’s thriving rugby club targeted it for expansion.

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Bury Rugby Club yesterday announced it could see the controversial leg of mutton field as a “potential relocation or expansion site” as it attempts to cater for its growing number of players and members.

The field is adjacent to the club’s current Haberden site in Rougham Road, and has been the subject of a dispute between developers Pigeon Investment Management and local campaigners the Bury Water Meadows Group over its future use.

Pigeon wish to see the land developed for formal recreation, while the Water Meadows Group want to see it preserved for informal recreation as a “green lung for Bury”.

A statement from Bury Rugby Club said it “supports the work being done by Pigeon” on the site, and that club representatives had already held informal discussions with the landowner.

It added: “The club has not yet reached the stage of consulting with its membership, because so far there are no specific proposals to discuss.

“However, subject to their views, the club could in future support this location as a potential relocation or expansion site, with its excellent access to the road and transport network, along with its connectivity to the town centre and the other leisure facilities in this part of the town.

“The club looks forward to the outcome of Pigeon and St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s promotion of the leg of mutton field, and how this may be able to further benefit the future requirements of the club to grow community rugby and sports activity in the area.”

The club says it needs more training and playing space for its growing youth section.

It already has more than 20 teams - four senior mens teams, one ladies team, and junior teams at every age from six to 18, with many age groups having more than one team. A girl’s team is also being started next season.

Andrew Hinchley, chairman of the Bury Water Meadows Group, said: “The rugby club have already got a lot of land in the centre of Bury - I don’t think it’s reasonable for them to take any more space.

“Although it’s a very successful rugby club, it does only appeal to a small section of society, whereas what we’re proposing appeals to everyone.

“We wouldn’t be in favour. If you look at the current rugby club, there’s a clubhouse, large car park and huge floodlights. It’s not appropriate.”

Planning inspector Roger Clews, who led a public inquiry into St Edmundsbury’s draft Vision 2031 local plan documents, had recommended the land be designated for “amenity public open space for informal outdoor recreation”, and any building should be directly related to that use.

This would prevent sports pitches or a fitness centre from being built at the site, which is a 15-hectare plot of agricultural land owned by a private trust.

A consultation over the site is open until May 30. Visit www.stedmundsbury.gov.uk

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