Hospital site earmarked for new centre

HEALTH chiefs have revealed the site of an aging hospital is their “preferred choice” for a new town centre facility - just four years after the building was deemed unsafe.

Dave Gooderham

HEALTH chiefs have revealed the site of an aging hospital is their “preferred choice” for a new town centre facility - just four years after the building was deemed unsafe.

After years of speculation surrounding the future of Sudbury's Walnuttree Hospital and fears the site could be sold off, the EADT can reveal that bosses at NHS Suffolk are striving to use the land to build a new health centre.

Under the plans, which still need to be ratified, the existing Victorian building would be demolished in stages to make way for the multi-million pound unit.


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But campaigners and residents last night cast doubt on the proposals claiming that other sites in Sudbury were more suitable for a state-of-the-art centre.

Peter Clifford, chairman of action group Sudbury WATCH and a member of the committee looking at future improvements, said: “I am aware that Walnuttree has come forward as an option but I would be surprised if this was any cheaper than a new build.

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“I think there is a severe access problem and not befitting a busy, modern health facility. Sudbury WATCH continues to see Churchfield Road as a more practical solution as it would be more suited to future expansion.”

Martin Royal, director of business development and external relations at NHS Suffolk, stressed that nothing could be confirmed about the Walnuttree - plus two other hospital-owned sites - until the strategic health authority (SHA) was consulted and a developer brought on board.

But he said: “We have been going through the business case process and looking at the various options and our preferred one is redeveloping the Walnuttree Hospital site.

“As part of our case, we looked at all the NHS-owned sites in Sudbury and evaluated them against our business case criteria.

“We want to put Walnuttree forward and hope we can find a developer who can come in and build this high-class healthcare facility to the set specifications.”

Mr Royal revealed that St Leonard's Hospital did not meet stringent criteria for a new facility while a site in Churchfield Road had some “advantages” but failed against the Walnuttree.

Conceding there would still be sceptics in a town that has seen decades of broken promises over health provision, Mr Royal said: “I would say the mood in Sudbury is one of cautious optimism. There are obviously concerns about the timescale and whether we will deliver what we say, given a history of non-delivery in Sudbury.”

Town councillor, Sylvia Byham, who has campaigned for improved health facilities for 30 years, said: “There appears to be a change of heart over the Walnuttree site considering we were told a few years ago that it would be too expensive to alter.

“I just hope common sense will prevail and we will get something worthy of Sudbury's status.”

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