Business case is approved for 'groundbreaking' community hub in Bury St Edmunds
PUBLISHED: 10:05 20 September 2019 | UPDATED: 08:30 26 September 2019
A "groundbreaking" multi-million-pound development which will combine health, leisure and education facilities has moved a step closer - after its business plan was approved.
Members of West Suffolk Council unanimously agreed the developer business case to build and to set a budget for the Western Way scheme in Bury St Edmunds.
The final plans are also being examined by public sector partners which could bring together new leisure facilities, health, education and other public services with the commercial sector on one site in the town.
The council says the scheme will deliver new state-of-the-art community facilities, alongside those already at West Suffolk House, and offer "an innovative way to deliver integrated public services and create new jobs".
The plans, which were discussed at a council meeting on Thursday, September 19, include a new Bury St Edmunds leisure centre, increasing the amount of water activities for families with young children, improvements to the existing skate park in Olding Road and highways improvements to cope with an increase in traffic in the local area.
Jo Rayner, portfolio holder for leisure, culture and community hubs, said: "This will be an exemplar initiative nationally on not only how all public services can share buildings and space but work in a more joined up way to be better than the sum of their parts.
"Evidence is clear that when services such as health, leisure, education and other public services are put together that not only is it easier to access services but also the outcomes are much better.
"By sharing public services we also open up land they previously occupied for other uses, such as much needed homes.
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"The finances currently show that it is capable of paying for itself over time but before any contracts are awarded there will be a formal process to have a further in-depth look at costs."
The next steps will see the council look at applying for planning permission which could unlock additional external investment. There will also be a further process of looking at finances before committing to a final scheme.
Although situated in Bury St Edmunds, the project, which has been a long-term ambition, will benefit residents further afield in west Suffolk and complement a network of public sector hubs across the area.
Part of the proposal is a complete replacement and upgrade of the existing leisure centre, across the road from West Suffolk House, which is nearly 45 years old and shortly in need of considerable investment.
The business case shows that replacing the centre now will be cheaper in the long term for taxpayers, as well as better for users.
It is also agreed that the steel frame of the depot in Olding Road should be re-used for the new public service building to save money and natural resources as well as creating a flexible space that can be built in a phased way and will link to existing services at West Suffolk House.
The new buildings would also benefit from a large investment in renewable technology.
The report to councillors shows that new facilities for rent by the public and private sector should be capable of paying for themselves when fully let out.
The proposals also include changes to the junctions from Newmarket Road, along Western Way, to the junction with Beetons Way, to help manage the traffic to the scheme itself and also the general growth on the highway network.