West Suffolk will lead the way as councillors agree detailed plans to be worked up for ground breaking proposals to deliver integrated public services and build new state of the art leisure facilities in Bury St Edmunds.
Members of St Edmundsbury Borough Council unanimously backed proposals to draw up a detailed business case to bring new leisure facilities, health, education and other services together with the commercial sector on one site.
It is part of a long term vision for the area and would also attract investment and bring jobs, potentially opening within the next five years.
The outline case, discussed by councillors at their meeting on Tuesday, 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.
It is also suggested that the steel frame of the depot on Olding Road is re-used for the new Public Service building, saving money and resources as well as creating a flexible space that can be built in a phased way and will link to West Suffolk House.
Members of St Edmundsbury Borough Council agreed a detailed business case should be worked up for the scheme which would be an investment from a range of partners estimated to be around £100 to £125 million.
Councillors agreed the proposals should only go ahead if that final business case shows that there is a workable highways plan, the finances stack up and the project at least breaks even for the Council as developer. The Council will also look at external funding and other sources of finance.
It also means that the current leisure centre and pool, which needs millions of pounds of improvements in the next 10 years before having to be rebuilt anyway, could be moved within the site to integrate with health services, providing extra parking and new facilities.
The plans also mean the current leisure centre would stay open while the new bigger and better one is developed, eventually releasing land for much needed student accommodation and parking.
The report also said that doing nothing was not an option on the site as the leisure centre needs refurbishment and the depot buildings will become empty.
The new site would create opportunities for multiple other partners to join the councils and West Suffolk CCG at the site, in the first or later phases. To date, work on exploring the business case has involved all parts of the NHS, the Police, Abbeycroft Leisure, West Suffolk College, the CAB and several other partners under the auspices of the Government’s One Public Estate Programme. Which partners will be part of the first phase of development will be clarified before the final business case in 2019.
John Griffiths, leader of St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “I am delighted that councillors unanimously backed these proposals going forward for more detailed work. This is an exciting opportunity to deliver services in a much more joined up way while regenerating this area of Bury St Edmunds to improve the health, education and prosperity of our residents.
“This is nationally ground breaking and brings public and private partners together. Evidence shows where you put education, health, leisure and other public services together they achieve more than the sum of their parts. It is much more than bricks and mortar and where people sit. It is how we work together and make it much easier for people to access services. Partners have already indicated their willingness to be part of these plans and help progress them, with health colleagues in particular already indicating they would like to move. We already work closely with partners in West Suffolk House, sharing offices and expertise, and this is the logical next step.
“This has been a long term ambition and part of the master plan for the site. It is obvious that doing nothing is not an option and we have the opportunity to not only transform local services but invest in new and improved leisure facilities for the community. It also means we can keep leisure facilities open while the new ones are being developed. I welcome the council’s decision to support us driving forward and developing a detailed business case that will be considered next year.”