A nationally recognised ground-breaking initiative to improve the health, well-being and education for the community has won its second award in as many weeks.
Mildenhall Hub, which only opened last summer, has been named the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) East of England Winner for best public sector project in its annual awards. It will now compete in the national awards final in October.
It comes just days after the Hub won best commercial building in the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Suffolk Craftmanship Awards.
The Hub has brought together a new school, new gym, fitness studios and 3G pitch, swimming pools and sports hall, a new town library, health centre, children’s centre, Citizens Advice West Suffolk and job centre. The Hub, in Sheldrick Way, also includes office space used by the NHS, police, Suffolk County Council and West Suffolk Council.
Nicola Hood, principal of Mildenhall College Academy, said: “The new school within the hub is a great learning environment and one where the students and staff are proud to come into school each day. Being part of the Hub also offers us so much more in terms of the work that we can do with leisure, the library and the other organisations using the building. It’s been an amazing first year for us – we love the hub and so it is brilliant to see it recognised this way.”
On behalf of all the many hub partners, Jo Rayner, cabinet member for Community Hubs at West Suffolk Council, said: “The hub is about the people of Mildenhall and the surrounding area, not just now but for the future. Its success isn’t just about better school, leisure and other facilities both now and for the future; it is as much about how the people who work at the hub collaborate for the benefit of residents. Residents can come in and use a range of services in a single journey, while the hub is delivering environmental and economical savings through the old, outdated buildings it has replaced. It is a real winner for the local community and it is fantastic to see it, and the work of the design and construction professionals who worked on it, recognised with these awards.”
In the first year, Abbeycroft Leisure who manage the leisure facilities on West Suffolk Council’s behalf, has seen footfall and membership increase by 70 per cent on pre-covid levels. The number of students in its swim scheme has also increased by 50 per cent again compared to pre-covid levels.
And health partners including West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust adult and paediatric community health teams are seeing benefits to patient care by working collaboratively with other services. Abbeycroft has been able to offer specialist classes at the hub as a direct result of working alongside the pulmonary rehab and Hub based physio teams, helping patients recovering from a cardiac event to regain their confidence and learn how to maintain their fitness.
The Hub has also enabled families to attend community paediatric speech and language therapy rather than having to go to Bury St Edmunds, while having a library on-site has also proven important.
In the past year, the library has increased the activities on offer to the local community. It became the first library in Suffolk to introduce a children’s therapy dog reading session. It has worked with other partners within the building, including the Jobcentre and Abbeycroft Leisure to deliver one-off events. And the library has also supplied written-off children’s stock to both the speech and language therapists and the job centre for their clients.
The library also experienced a big increase in members and items issued compared to pre-pandemic when it was in its old building in Chestnut Close. There has been a 48 per cent increase in items issued and a 54 per cent increase in new library members, with over 700 new members joining between its opening on June 1, 2021, and the end of March this year.
The £40m plus hub was funded by West Suffolk Council, Education and Skills Funding Agency, Academy Transformation Trust, Suffolk County Council, the National Lottery, through Sport England, and the Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner, and is recognised as a significant project in the government’s national One Public Estate Programme.
It was designed by Concertus Design and Property Consultants and built by R G Carter with project management from Currie and Brown.
The Mildenhall Hub will now go through to the RICS national final in October. For more on the Hub visit www.mildenhallhub.info