Bury St Edmunds: Villagers brand new hospital plan a “sham”

ANGRY villagers last night branded consultation over plans for a new hospital and hundreds of new homes on their doorstep a “sham”.

Health chiefs are working with a housing developer to draw up a scheme for a new hospital and about 450 homes on a plot of land to the west of Westley and south of the A14.

The new hospital would replace the existing West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmmunds.

However, Westley residents say the consultation being carried out is a “sham” and say they do not want up to 450 new homes or a new hospital built nearby.

Jim Sweetman, chairman of the Westley Save the Village Campaign, said he doubted whether the site would be large enough for a new hospital.

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He said: “This consultation tells us nothing about the plans. It just wants to get people to believe that the development is inevitable.

“We know that is not the case. The new localism bill which is going through Parliament would give villages like ours the opportunity to have a neighbourhood plan so we could have a stronger voice in planning decisions.

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“St Edmundsbury Borough Council knows that the law is changing and is trying to say that they have consulted

as a way of getting round the new law.

“We are taking our case to our local MPs and direct to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

“We want these plans put on hold until the Localism Act becomes law and we can devise a neighbourhood plan.”

Westley resident John Foster said: “I went to the first consultation meeting expecting to see some detailed proposals which we could sensibly discuss.

“The lack of detail was insulting to everyone who made an effort to be there.”

A spokeswoman for the borough council defended the consultation process and the need for development in the west of the town.

She said: “The principal of development on the western side of Bury was examined by a government planning inspector last year.

“At the same time the need for new housing in Bury over the next twenty years was also tested and the numbers were agreed by the Inspector.

“The government’s Localism Bill is suggesting that communities should be given more opportunities to plan where they live rather than having to react to developers proposals.

“The Bill also states that development proposed in planning strategies cannot be overturned by the new neighbourhood planning process.

“The council encourages people to get involved in this process and help shape the new neighbourhoods.”

Gareth Corser, director of strategy at the hospital, said: “We’ve identified a 22 hectare site which is slightly bigger than the current site.”

He said while the new hospital would provide “core services” such as accident and emergency, the full range of services, bed numbers and staffing were still unknown because the project was between 15 and 20 years until completion.

“Whatever we develop needs to be flexible,” he said.

He said the new facility was needed because the existing campus is nearly 40 years old and is becoming increasingly expensive to maintain.

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