Sudbury: Plans to retain historic core of Walnuttree Hospital during flat conversion is ‘not viable’

The Walnuttree Hospital site in Sudbury

The Walnuttree Hospital site in Sudbury - Credit: Archant

Renewed fears have been raised about the future of a historic hospital building after it emerged that current plans for the site are not financially viable.

An artists impression of the Walnuttree Hospital site under the contemporary design proposal. View t

An artists impression of the Walnuttree Hospital site under the contemporary design proposal. View taken from the west aspect. - Credit: Archant

Renewed concerns have been raised about the future of a historic hospital building after it emerged that current plans for the site are not financially viable.

The fate of Walnuttree Hospital, in Sudbury, has been the focus of much speculation since plans to replace it with a new health centre in Church Field Road were given the go-ahead.

Then last December, the building’s owners, West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, unveiled a scheme that would have seen the Victorian core of Walnuttree retained and converted into 36 flats.

The remainder of the building was to be demolished and replaced with a mix of three-storey houses, landscaping and courtyards.


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But at a recent meeting of stakeholders including representatives from the Sudbury Society and Sudbury Hospital Watch group members, the trust admitted that the scheme would not be profitable.

This has sparked fears that the site might be sold to a developer who could demolish the entire building, which has a rich history and was originally built as the Sudbury Union Workhouse and opened in 1837.

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The NHS trust is also in the process of deciding how best to dispose of St Leonard’s Hospital and land known as People’s Park.

Jill Fisher was representing the People’s Park Preservation Society at the meeting.

She said: “The NHS trust has admitted they are not going to get the money they thought they would from the Walnuttree scheme and the fear is that they will sell the site to a developer who will bulldoze the building and start from scratch. We had also hoped to save the outbuildings as a church hall but the way things are going, it’s highly unlikely we are going to achieve that.

“We feel that Sudbury’s assets have been milked with nothing to show for it and once they are gone, they will be irreplaceable.”

Stephen Thorpe, of the Sudbury Society, agreed that it would be a disaster if the original historic core of the building was destroyed.

He added: “We have lost too much in Sudbury already and we must battle to save this because it’s embroiled in Sudbury’s history and is a sensitive site near a Grade-I Listed church. We want to see it kept and its life extended.”

Peter Clifford, chairman of Sudbury WATCH, said he felt confident that selling the site to a third party would be a last option.

He added: “The trust came up with a plan which we thought was a very good but looking at all the costs involved, it doesn’t appear that the plan is viable. The NHS is making a reassessment of where they go from here. They could amend the plan and have it redesigned so there’s more capacity for extra apartments to make it viable for a developer.

“They could get outline planning permission for the site to be developed, or they could sell the land as it is to a third party. If that happened then in theory a developer could knock the hospital down and start again, but I know the trust is still keen to retain the main part of the building because they know how strongly people feel about it. But at the end of the day, it has to be viable and the NHS has no choice in the current climate other than to maximise the amount they can get for each site.”

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital said: “We will be applying for planning permission for the Walnuttree site before we market the land. This application will be for the scheme we discussed with stakeholders during the public consultation held earlier this year, and includes conversion of the historic building as well as the construction of new homes.”

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