Thurston Railway Station, Gainsborough’s House along with other community projects set to benefit from over £420,000 of funding

Thurston Railway Station.

More than £420,000 in developer contributions is to be ploughed back into communities – funding a study into Thurston railway station, the renovation of Gainsborough’s House, and improved play equipment and bus facilities for villages.

Cabinet members for Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils met yesterday (Monday, September 5) to agree the latest round of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding.

The levy is a legal requirement paid by developers of residential sites in the district. Every six months, the councils consider the bids made for CIL funding, earmarked for projects to help local infrastructure keep pace with development.

This latest allocation is the ninth round of CIL funding and brings the total allocation delivered to the districts to more than £11m since May 2018.

The awards include £100,000 of CIL funding toward a feasibility study into possible improvements at Thurston’s railway station.

As a growing village with recently completed housing developments – and more to be built – Thurston’s current train station is undergoing a study to establish if several elements could be changed or added, including further crossing options and safer access to the train platform.

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s route director for Anglia, said: “Thurston train station is an important asset for the village and forms part of the crucial Ipswich-Bury St Edmunds line across the heart of Suffolk. The funding will allow us to investigate options for closing the level crossing at the station and replacing it with a safer, more accessible alternative.”

Receiving the largest sum of money, Gainsborough’s House, in Sudbury, will be supported with more than £152,500 to continue its ongoing renovation as a key part of the Sudbury Vision.

Two of Britain’s greatest landscape artists, Gainsborough and Constable, hail from Suffolk, and the historic house is set to fulfil the role of a national gallery for the painters – featuring new galleries, internationally significant art collections, a panoramic studio, learning spaces and café.

Closed to the public as work got underway in 2019, the £10m Gainsborough’s House project has been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic but will now reopen to all in November.

Mark Bills, director of Gainsborough’s House, said: “Three years of building works in the face of unprecedented circumstances have brought this vision to life. I’d like to thank the public for their thoughts, support and donations, together with every trust, fund and agency that has helped make this gallery a reality. In particular, I would like to thank Babergh District Council, without whose support the project could not have happened.”

Further awards were made of £100,000 to the children’s play area at Capel St Mary; £25,000 to bus shelter provision in Cockfield; £20,500 to a play area at Ringshall; almost £10,000 for improvement to Botesdale Recreation Ground; £5,700 to Case Lane Playing Field, Bentley; and £5,400 to CCTV provision at Kingfisher Leisure Centre, in Sudbury.

Babergh cabinet member for planning Clive Arthey said: “Communities are understandably concerned about local facilities keeping pace with development, so we work with a wide variety of organisations and partners through the CIL process including transport partners, healthcare providers, community groups, towns and parishes to ensure this funding can be used in the best way to meet local need.

“Whether it’s a £150,000 award for a national gallery or £2,000 for a community bus parking area – every award makes a difference to its local community.”

And Mid Suffolk cabinet member for planning David Burn added: “We have to meet the demand for homes, but we also want to ensure that our communities can thrive as attractive, successful and connected places for people to live and work. I’m delighted to see this round of CIL funding being used to support potential rail improvements at Thurston as well as improving quality of life and wellbeing in our villages through improvements to play areas and recreation grounds.”

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