National Trust leaves village devastated as it shuts historic football pitch to turn it into biodiversity zone to meet 'eco targets'

National Trust leaves village devastated as it shuts historic football pitch to turn it into biodiversity zone to meet 'eco targets'
Jack Carson

By Jack Carson

Published: 16/04/2024

- 08:17

Updated: 16/04/2024

- 08:18

The National Trust has been accused of “trampling over the wishes of historic owners”

A Tory MP has blasted plans by the National Trust to turn a village football pitch into an area of biodiversity.

The field in Sudbury has been home to sport in the Derbyshire village for over 100 years as part of the Sudbury Hall estate, but GB News has been told the National Trust want it back in order to meet their ‘biodiversity, conservation and eco targets’.

The land in the estate was given to the trust by the 10th Lord Vernon after the death of his father in the 1960s.

Sarah Dines, Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales, has called the plans “incredibly sad” and accused the National Trust of “trampling over the wishes of historic owners”.

With the house having been in the family since the 17th century, the transfer came with a ‘Memorandum of Wishes’, one of which stated that the people of Sudbury may use the cricket field for recreational purposes, free of charge.

The land had been leased to the local Parish Council, which was due to end in September 2026, but it’s understood last September they were told it was wanted back.

Sudbury Hall Sports Field

Sudbury Hall Sports Field is being returned to the National Trust


In January, the council voted to end the lease on the sports field early to save costs, and hand the land back early this summer.

Following direct discussions with the National Trust, they have decided not to let Sudbury FC carry on using the pitch, denying future generations in the village grassroots sport which has been enjoyed for the last one hundred years.

Manager of the club, Tom Crutchley, told GB News the decision was “very upsetting”.

He said: “I’m from the village originally, so personally it was very upsetting as a member of the village and for the players we bring in.

“It’s upsetting for future generations. If you look at the ‘Memorandum of Wishes’, it was to continue as a sports field.

“The amount of land they have here is over 20 acres, there’s surely enough room for that [the biodiversity plans] and for the number of times we play.

“The National Trust want to support local communities and build strong relations, and not letting us play here probably doesn’t help that.”

The club started a petition to save their home ground and preserve the sports field, amassing over 46 thousand signatures in the process.

The area has been used for sport going back generations


The proposed changes have also upset local people who worry businesses in the area will be impacted by the loss of a community space. The club estimates £10,000 will be lost from the local economy through the withdrawal of the facility.

MP for Derbyshire Dales, Sarah Dines, told GB News the National Trust aren’t respecting the history of the site.

She said: “I feel like they’re trampling over the wishes of historic owners who gave up this wonderful site for the nation.

“For over 100 years people have played football and cricket here, and it’s just incredibly sad.

“I know it’s a tricky issue maintaining this sort of ground, but the government has given a lot of money for grassroots sport and there would be funds available to keep it as it is.”

It's not just plans for the sports field that have upset the Member of Parliament. Sudbury Hall has recently been ‘reimagined’ under the branding of ‘The Children’s Country House’.

Blasting the National Trust, Dines said she believes they’ve been “captured”.

She said: “The core values are not being respected here in my view; this is fake to make it into a children’s theme park. This is a family National Trust property; it should be available for everybody not just one sector.

“It’s almost a reimagining, in fact that’s the very words they use on their website.

“I don’t want our heritage to be reimagined and I think the National Trust has been captured by people who have different ideas than most people in our country.”

In response to the concerns raised about the plans for the sports field, a National Trust spokesperson told GB News: “The land situated in front of The Children’s Country House at Sudbury is historical parkland that is part of the estate but has been leased to the Parish Council.

“The Parish Council has requested to bring this lease, due to expire in 2026, to an end in May 2024, which with an understanding of their circumstances, we have agreed to.”

They added: “Although the National Trust will not be able to continue running the land as a space for hire on a commercial basis, the local community will continue to be able to enjoy it free of charge for family leisure time, games and activities such as picnicking, dog walking and village celebrations.

“We are also looking at plans to restore the land back to a grade II listed landscape, which will include grassland and the planting of new trees, that will blend the area with the surrounding historic parkland.”

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