Take a look at latest designs for new public services hub in Bury
- Credit: West Suffolk Council/Pick Everard
Fresh images have been released for a new multi-million pound public services hub in Bury St Edmunds combining leisure, council, health and education facilities, after a planning application was submitted.
But fears have been raised that it will be diverting services away from the very people it intends to serve.
West Suffolk Council last week put forward a formal planning application for proposals to revamp the old depot in Olding Road to create the innovative new 'hub'.
It will incorporate Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre, as well as council services and a nursery.
Other support services such as Citizens Advice, West Suffolk College, Abbeycroft Leisure, Suffolk police and NHS services have all been involved in the business case, with some or all of those likely to have services at the new facility.
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It is expected to go before the council's planning committee for a decision early in the new year.
In its application, the authority said: "The project is part of a long term vision for the area and would also attract investment and bring new jobs, potentially opening within the next five years.
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"The full business case suggested the plans would give the opportunity for radical regeneration, transform how services work and produce better outcomes for residents.
"At the same time, the new development aims to reduce costs to the public purse and free up other assets in the area."
While the council is both the applicant and the planning authority, the application must still go through the usual checks and be determined by the development control committee.
Work on the Western Way public services hub follows on from a similar project in Mildenhall, where construction has begun.
The council confirmed it is hoping to use the existing concrete slab and steel frame of the old depot to save money and time.
According to the council, incorporating the leisure centre in the new build will also help save money, as it "needs millions of pounds of improvements before having to be rebuilt anyway".
The final partners involved in the first phase of the project will be confirmed later next year.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of the Bury St Edmunds business improvement district, said: "We appreciate the need to reduce costs and streamline services but generally the public service doesn't have a great reputation for bringing large capital projects in on budget or the projected savings actually occurring.
"The district council offices relocating from Angel Hill to Western Way a few years ago was a retrograde step as far as the BID was concerned.
"Firstly the trade created by the staff popping into town at lunchtime and after work was immediately lost to town centre businesses and the staff are then not witnessing themselves what is actually happening in the town centre.
"Locating public service staff away from the public they should be serving, albeit to save money, seems a most peculiar approach."