March 6 2015 Latest news:
Friday, April 4, 2014
An NHS trust has defended a decision not to include a community facility in its plans for a soon-to-be redundant hospital building in west Suffolk.
The fate of Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury has been the focus of much speculation since plans to replace it with a new £10million health centre in Church Field Road – due to open this autumn – were given the go-ahead.
West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust is now in the process of applying for planning permission for a scheme that would see parts of Walnuttree demolished and replaced with housing.
In the latest plans, the core of the Victorian building would be retained, but hopes of creating a hall for nearby St Gregory’s Church and a much-needed town archive in the former outpatients’ department have been dashed.
The number of homes in the scheme has increased to 49 and the community facility has been dropped, which has angered members of local groups, including the Sudbury Society.
But a spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital said it had always been clear that the inclusion of a community building would be dependent on viability. Extra homes would mean more funds to be ploughed back into healthcare services in the area.
He added: “Unfortunately studies carried out last year showed the proposal would not be feasible.
“Instead, we have been advised to add a further six homes to the scheme to maximise the value of the land on behalf of taxpayers and make it an attractive and viable option for developers.”
Sudbury Society chairman Peter Thorogood has accused the trust of failing to consult local groups about the revised plans. He said the community hall could have been part-funded by a legacy from local historian Tony Wheeler and wouldn’t have cost the ratepayers anything.
He added: “We have put considerable effort into liaising with heritage architects over this proposal and we are disappointed that no-one bothered to come to us and say they were dropping the community facilities.
“We only have the trust’s word that it’s not viable and we would request that they publish the report showing the figures so we can all see it.”
The trust spokesman said concerns regarding the viability of the site had been explained to members of its liaison forum last year. A further meeting with the Sudbury Society would be arranged in the near future.