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Step forward for new leisure centre phase of Western Way development in Bury St Edmunds





The planned Western Way development in Bury St Edmunds has been given the go-ahead to progress to the second stage of tendering.

West Suffolk Council’s cabinet voted unanimously for the step yesterday, which refers only to the initial phase of the scheme.

This phase is budgeted to cost £75 million and include a leisure centre, West Suffolk’s branch of the Suffolk Archives, and potentially office space and a preschool.

Artists impression for the Western Way sports hall. Picture: West Suffolk Council
Artists impression for the Western Way sports hall. Picture: West Suffolk Council

The NHS had plans to provide a large community health facility on the site. In September 2022, it explained it needed more time to finish the business case due to new financial rules, meaning the health facility will not be provided in phase one.

Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, portfolio holder for housing and strategic health, said at yesterday’s meeting: “I just hope the health and wellbeing centre comes to fruition.

“We know we have a deficit of GPs in this area. I am hoping the NHS will continue to engage with us and provide a large health and wellbeing centre in this development.”

What the new pool could look like - inset Cllr Robert Everitt. Picture: West Suffolk Council
What the new pool could look like - inset Cllr Robert Everitt. Picture: West Suffolk Council

In response, Cllr Robert Everitt, portfolio holder for families and communities, said he would be “very surprised” if the NHS pulled out of the plans for the health and wellbeing centre entirely.

Cllr Everitt said: “The major issue with health and wellbeing is getting out there and into communities.

“We have proved the point at Mildenhall and Howard Estate’s community centre that health centres within developments like Western Way are well used and well received.”

The Mildenhall Hub has a health centre and the Howard Estate community centre in Bury St Edmunds includes an NHS clinic room.

West Suffolk Council approved an updated business case for phase one of Western Way last December.

The latest cost plan shows the hub at an estimated 2.57 percent above budget. However, it is too early in the process for costings to be accurate – and there is time for mitigation such as savings and capital funding to be secured.

The report states: “There will be no cost certainty on the project until formal market-testing and production of the final cost plan with the preferred contractor.

“Only then would it be possible to decide if the Council’s budget tests are being met.”

The only notable change to the plans laid out in December is the sports hall will now be slightly larger, which will cost very little according to the report brought to cabinet.

It is expected that officers will decide whether the final contract can be signed in consultation with cabinet in late summer of this year.

If the final contract sum is not within budget, it will be referred to a cabinet meeting – and potentially a full council meeting.