Ground-breaking initiative passes key milestone

The next steps towards the delivery of the ground-breaking Western Way Development, in Bury St Edmunds, has seen an independent review of its business case.

The review has said there is no reason why the development shouldn’t progress provided some existing financial tests are passed.

The multi-million project aims to bring together a host of public services to work more closely together and through this, achieve better outcomes for residents in West Suffolk.

It includes a new leisure centre to replace the one on Beetons Way, which is nearly 45 years old and in need of major investment. A business case found that it would be cheaper in the long term to replace the leisure centre rather than simply upgrade it, and that it would also be better for users.

The review, by property development specialist Rider Levett Bucknall UK Ltd, is part of the safeguards that West Suffolk Council has put in place for the project. It makes a number of recommendations which will be addressed through an action plan. These findings will be presented to West Suffolk Council’s Cabinet when it meets next Tuesday, January 14.

The independent review said the project was an innovative development with clear strategic benefits and although “challenging” would likely deliver significant community and environmental benefits.

Joanna Rayner, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Community Hubs, said: “There is still a long way to go, but this is the next step towards delivering on this long-held ambition for the benefit of our residents. At the heart of it, the Western Way Development is about delivering better outcomes for our residents through new ways of working. It is about creating new jobs and public services in health, education, leisure and other sectors working more closely together. The review by Rider Levett Bucknall gives us assurance that the safeguards we’ve already put in place to protect taxpayers’ money are the right ones and will make sure the scheme is good value for money for West Suffolk residents.”

A final business case for the project received unanimous support from councillors when it was approved in September.

The project is still subject to planning permission with a decision on an application to be decided later this year. That in turn could unlock the potential to attract external investment, and there will be further discussions with project partners in health, education and other public services and further scrutiny of the finances before committing to the scheme. It will only go ahead if the finances either generate income or at a minimum break-even for taxpayers.

If it goes ahead, the Western Way Development would operate alongside the offices at West Suffolk House which are already used by West Suffolk Council, Suffolk County Council, the NHS and the East of England Local Government Association.

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