Bury St Edmunds: West Suffolk Hospital could relocate to a new site as staff accommodation deemed ‘substandard’

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds - Credit: PA

West Suffolk Hospital has begun the first part of a study to determine whether it should remain at its current site or build a new ‘health campus’.

The start of the study, which is due to conclude in the summer of 2015 and could result in a move from Hardwick Lane to a site at Westley, was set out in a document concerning the hospital’s urgent need to replace “substandard” staff residences to stop them falling below NHS requirements.

The need for the accommodation block, exacerbated by a raft of significant repairs, is so pressing that the hospital has asked St Edmundsbury Borough Council to waive certain planning policy requirements to allow them to speed up the process and secure outline planning permission by this December.

Writing on behalf of the hospital Trust, Tim Harbord, of planning and development consultancy Tim Harbord Associates, said that regardless of future plans and any decisions on the hospital’s location, the Trust “cannot stand still”.

He added: “There are certain pressing issues and projects in development that cannot be deferred pending the outcome of a masterplanning exercise [regarding the location of the hospital], to which end the Trust is evolving an interim strategy that ensures a future hospital at Hardwick Lane would not be compromised.”

One of the main elements of this interim strategy includes the replacement of the accommodation block.

Mr Harbord said: “The need for significant backlog repairs earlier than anticipated has come to light very recently meaning that a solution in the way of new accommodation on an alternative site within the hospital grounds needs to be agreed urgently.

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“The Trust can ill-afford the time to prepare, consult on, report on the consultation, make any necessary changes and adopt a Development Brief. As such they wish to obtain an outline planning application as soon as possible in order to provide the necessary degree of certainty and comfort to future bidders for the project.”

However, although the accommodation development is part of the hospital’s interim strategy, documents state that the residences’ “viability as a development” should the hospital move to Westley is a consideration.

Improving parking is also identified as part of the interim strategy, with Mr Harbord’s letter suggesting that more spaces will introduced to mitigate peak demand and offset spaces lost with the building of accommodation.

If the decision is made to retain the hospital at Hardwick Lane a more permanent solution, in the form of ‘decked parking’ could be considered.

Addressing the accommodation development a spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital said: “We have started to look at the options for replacing our staff residences so that we can provide colleagues with more modern, better quality homes while also reducing the amount we spend on maintenance and repairs.

“Work on this project has only just begun, and we are currently considering potential sites for the development within the hospital grounds. We will then submit an application for outline planning permission to the council, with a view to completing the project within the next two to three years.

“It has always been our intention to work in partnership with a housing provider to deliver the project so that the capital cost of the building work does not come from the NHS.”

The council’s Sustainable Development Working Party will consider the request to release the hospital from the obligation of a Development Brief on June 17.

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