A new community car park is being created for medical staff and patients attending Covid-19 vaccination appointments in Woolpit.
The land for the site is being gifted to Mid Suffolk District Council by Barratt and David Wilson Homes, who are currently building new homes in the village.
Proposals for this to be used as a community car park have been accelerated in response to a growing demand for parking while the health centre is used to administer the COVID-19 vaccination.
Woolpit was one of the first Covid vaccination sites in Suffolk and has already administered thousands of vaccinations at its temporary home at the Woolpit Business Park.
However, this location will return to its original use once lockdown restrictions begin to ease, and vaccinations will instead be carried out at Woolpit Health Centre, which is still providing routine GP services to patients.
This has created a need for the centre to be easily accessible by those attending vaccination appointments, including elderly and vulnerable residents prioritised for the vaccine.
Mid Suffolk District Council is working in partnership with the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Suffolk County Council, Woolpit Parish Council, and housing developer Barratt and David Wilson Homes on proposals for a new community car park to accommodate increased visitor numbers to the surgery during the pandemic.
Work on the first stage of the project, linking the land to the health centre’s existing car park, will begin shortly. This will involve the removal of a short section of hedgerow that presently separates the areas, once an inspection has been carried out to assess the presence of wildlife and nesting birds.
Although there are significant drainage and resurfacing works to be undertaken, it is hoped the car park will be fully operational in the summer – and additional updates on this will be provided as plans progress. Until completion, patients should continue to walk or cycle to the surgery, where possible, to increase the availability of spaces for those with limited mobility.
Plans for the long-term community use of the car park are currently being explored with Woolpit Parish Council, who have lent their support to the project.
David Burn, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for planning, said: “I would like to thank all those involved in this collaborative project, including Barratt and David Wilson Homes, the CCG, Suffolk County Council and Woolpit Parish Council. Their help is enabling us to expedite plans for a much-needed community car park – ensuring parking spaces are available for critical medical staff and vulnerable residents who are attending their vaccination appointment.”
Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of West Suffolk CCG, said: “We believe the construction of this new car park will really increase ease of access for many people to the health centre. We know the local communities really value this health centre facility and the CCG is pleased to have been involved in supporting the development of plans. We look forward to continuing our work with partners.”
Simon Wood, managing director at Barratt and David Wilson Homes Eastern Counties, said: “We’re thrilled to support Woolpit Health Centre as part of our upcoming Abbots Green development and will look forward to enhancing the facility’s car park to support the demand for additional parking for the Covid-19 vaccination centre.
“It’s our responsibility to support the areas in which we build with new facilities and services and the health centre will continue to be a valuable asset for new and existing residents in the village.”
The council is reviewing car parking at other vaccination sites in the district, and has already pledged to offer free parking for patients being vaccinated at The Mix, in Stowmarket.
At present, the Covid vaccine is being offered to people most at risk from coronavirus – and the NHS will contact Mid Suffolk residents when it is their turn to be vaccinated.