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West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds scraps plans to restrict access to Gypsy Lane for new site after concerns

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West Suffolk Hospital has abandoned plans to shut a route to motorists to provide pedestrian and cycle access for its new site after concerns were raised.

Residents have been giving their views on a hybrid application for a new hospital on land at Hardwick Manor in Hardwick Lane, Bury St Edmunds.

A key concern was proposed changes to Gypsy Lane, between the B1066/A143 junction and Horsecroft Road, which would have been restricted to emergency vehicles and cycle/pedestrian traffic only with footpath links created.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Phil Fuller
West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Phil Fuller

It was part of a number of walking and cycling improvements, between the site and surrounding area, outlined in a Travel Plan to reduce, by 10 per cent over five years, the number of staff and visitors driving a car or van to boost sustainable transport.

However, concerns were raised that a similar scheme had been tried before but was quickly abandoned after protests.

Last night West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust announced it had scrapped plans to close Gypsy Lane to motorists and would be exploring other ways to achieve its sustainable transport objectives.

Gypsy Lane in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Google Maps
Gypsy Lane in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Google Maps

A trust spokesman said: "The trust has been working with various stakeholders to explore options that will promote and provide pedestrian and cycle access to the new hospital as part of its outline planning submission.

"Given the limited number of options available for new paths to the west of the town, the re-purposing of Gypsy Lane was explored as an early option.

"This has now been superseded by the exploration of other means to address this objective and discussions are ongoing with relevant parties. Information in relation to this will be available once finalised.

"The trust has formally asked the local planning authority to disregard this note within the outline planning application."

In a letter to West Suffolk Council, one resident who walks along Gypsy Lane regularly said the route was closed at the A143 end, with cycle only access, 15 to 20 years ago.

He said: “As a walker it suited me very well. However, within a few months the lane was reopened to vehicular traffic due to protests from villagers south of Bury for whom this lane was an important means of access.”

The history of the previous change should be ‘fully investigated’ before the lane is closed again to vehicles, he said.

He also felt a footpath/cycle path extension on the A143 was ‘pretty much useless because they lead to nowhere’ and instead should extend ‘well into’ Horringer village and as far as Glastonbury Road.

The Gypsy Lane closure to vehicles would ‘inevitably place additional load’ on the Spread Eagle junction, he added.

Another resident noted that when the similar scheme in Gypsy Lane was tried, the extra traffic down Horringer Road led to queues back to Bristol Road.

They said a pedestrian/cycleway should be built next to a widened road.

Concerns from other residents to the planning application include a planned multi-storey car park which could be ‘encouraging more traffic to an already grid-locked area’ .

Another suggested a separate direct access to the A14, which would require a road or flyover from the Rougham Hill area.

Other measures suggested within the Travel Plan to cut down on car use include cycle parking for staff and visitors and promotion of walking and cycling as well as public transport.

Incentives will also be explored for staff who car share to and from the site.

The deadline to comment on the proposals via the West Suffolk Council planning portal is May 18.