Sudbury: New health centre back on schedule

A NEW health centre is back on schedule to open in Sudbury in spring 2014 after NHS Suffolk named its preferred partner for the project.

An announcement was made yesterday that the Assura Group had been picked by the health authority to develop the Church Field Road site. The contract is likely to be signed this autumn, with building work expected to start shortly after.

Plans for the health centre, which will replace Walnuttree and St Leonard’s hospitals in the town, were given the go-ahead by Babergh District Council more than six months ago and the NHS has attracted criticism for not choosing a developer sooner.

However, an NHS Suffolk spokesman said: “The process for identifying the preferred bidder has been deliberately in-depth and robust.

“The careful choosing of the right partner for this project has been time-consuming and will ensure the project runs smoothly and delivers a new building that will meet the health needs of local people.”

Chairman of Sudbury’s Watch hospital action group Peter Clifford welcomed the announcement. He said: “I think we are relieved that a developer has been appointed and work can finally go ahead.

“It means that they can get on the ground this autumn and construction can begin immediately, so by summer of 2014, we will have a new health centre. We have gone through all of the bureaucratic hoops and we are now hopeful there will be no further obstructions.”

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Services currently run out of Walnuttree and St Leonard’s will continue until the new centre is up and running. The future of the two historic buildings, along with Harp Close Meadow – the site originally earmarked for a new hospital – is currently being considered by West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Two exhibitions were held in June to gauge public opinion on plans for Harp Close Meadow, or People’s Park as it is known locally.

A West Suffolk Hospital spokesman said comments received during the public exhibitions had now been collated. He added: “We have written to all of the people who left their details to summarise this feedback and keep them updated with the next steps.

“Copies of this letter have been sent to people who took part in the original stakeholder forum so we can make sure everyone is kept informed of the latest developments.

“We have discussed the issues raised during the exhibitions with representatives from Babergh District Council and are continuing to work with them as we progress our application.” Public consultation around the two hospital sites is due to take place this winter.

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