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Bury St Edmunds £132m public services hub and leisure centre wins backing

Plans for a new public services hub and leisure centre in Bury St Edmunds will go ahead in phases, it has been confirmed, after councillors gave their backing.

A review of the business case for the Western Way hub was requested as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, to ensure demand was still there for the facility.

The proposals, which received planning permission in August 2020, will develop the former Olding Road depot to become a hub of public services including the council, library, health services and Citizens Advice among others, as well as providing employment space and a new leisure centre to replace the ageing Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre.

Western Way, BBC (48493521)
Western Way, BBC (48493521)

Updated figures indicated a phased approach could be delivered at a cost of between £91million and £132m, which remained within the upper limit of £139m published in the original business case.

The phased approach would mean phase one would feature around 3,250 square metres of health space; 2,000 sqm of commercial office space – around a third of what has been granted planning consent, and 2,500sqm of public sector space – roughly half of that granted in the full planning permission.

Project bosses said it can be delivered on a break-even basis.

Western Way, BBC (48493523)
Western Way, BBC (48493523)

West Suffolk Council agreed to pursue the hub plans at its meeting at Newmarket Racecourse on Tuesday night, despite some objections and concerns.

Conservative council leader John Griffiths said: “There is more need now than ever for this phased approach in a prudent way to deliver this important facility as soon as possible to keep it cost neutral.”

Councillor Jo Rayner, cabinet member for leisure, culture and community hubs, added: “I think this is a fantastic project for our residents, but we are going to have to have a bit of courage and a bit of leadership to get it over the line. But I do think this is something we really need to do for our residents to give us that new way of working.”

Western Way, BBC (48493517)
Western Way, BBC (48493517)

Among the health services planned for the space are adult community teams, early support stroke discharge team, community midwives and physiotherapy.

Stephen Dunn from West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said it was a “really proud, important project,” and added: “We are committed to having at least 4,000 square feet of the Western Way development, we are committed to providing £1.2million rent each year, we are committed to progressing this development.”

However, concerns were raised over some elements.

Western Way, BBC (48493519)
Western Way, BBC (48493519)

West Suffolk Independent Victor Lukaniuk said: “I don’t see much confidence through the report,” adding: “I am not for one moment suggesting this is a vanity project but it is definitely a luxury item.”

Elsewhere, Independent councillor Paul Hopfensperger questioned why a six-lane pool was planned when an eight-lane pool would future proof it for the next 50 years, while Independent Max Clarke said significant investment will be needed to the road network.

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