Major Sutton town centre redesign due for planning approval – including sundial removal

By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter

Plans to reshape parts of Sutton-in-Ashfield town centre could be approved next week – including the removal of the iconic sundial.

Ashfield District Council will debate its own plans next week (March 22) as it progresses with two Government-funded Towns Fund projects.

The plans include improvements to the central Portland Square as well as turning a derelict parcel of land into a town centre car park.

The authority unveiled the plans in 2021 after securing £62m from the Government’s Towns Fund pot.

The Portland Square works will lead to a major redesign of the central town centre area to offer a “green lung” in the heart of the town.

It followed a consultation with residents which found an “overwhelming majority” of residents want to see the 28-year-old sundial removed.

The sundial was installed in 1995 at a cost of £800,000 and it was planned to become a “world-renowned attraction” for the town.

It’s thought to be one of the biggest sundials in Europe but the council says its impact on tourism “remains unclear”.

If plans are approved next week, it will be replaced by two large, raised-planted green areas with built-in seating, designed around a large central space.

It’s hoped the new green space would become a “focal point” for the town which could host social activities and events.

New artist’s impressions for Portland Square in Sutton

Councillor Matthew Relf, cabinet member for regeneration, has been leading on Towns Fund plans and says the sundial has failed to “become dear to the hearts” of residents.

He previously: “We know the sundial prompts strong feelings one way or another.

“We asked whether the sundial should stay or go.  The overwhelming majority asked for the sundial to go.

“It is a real shame that it appears to have failed to attract visitors or become dear to the hearts of the majority of local residents.

“We hope our new plans will transform Portland Square into a green lung in our town centre and become a focal point.”

And Cllr David Hennigan (Ind), who represents Central Sutton and New Cross which covers the town centre, says there is “little love” for the sundial in his area.

He added last year: “It has been a grotesque waste of money and I hope its time is up.”

Other parts of the planning application include redeveloping land on Fox Street into the new town centre car park.

The land, which previously occupied the Conservative Club until its 2013 demolition, would be turned into a car park with 41 bays.

Three of these spaces would be disabled bays, with three further motorcycle spaces and one electric vehicle charging point.

Papers say four registered taxi bays would be lost to allow access to the new car park but that the authority’s licensing team “raise no objection” to their loss.

A public open space would also be created on the Fox Street site which would accommodate up to 32 market stalls.

These are currently held on Portland Square but will be relocated to the car park site, which “would be closed for general vehicle use on these days”.

The authority’s planning committee is recommended to approve the plans during its meeting on March 22.

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