Dispute over cash will not hold up health centre start date, says NHS

COMING SOON: An image of Sudbury's �10million health centre, on which work is due to start in the spring.
COMING SOON: An image of Sudbury's �10million health centre, on which work is due to start in the spring.
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No further delays are anticipated to the building of Sudbury’s new health centre after the development’s business case was approved.

It had been feared that the start of construction on the £10million centre in Church Field Road could be hindered by a cash squabble involving one of the main groups that will occupy the building.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which is expected to take up a 19 per cent share of the centre when it is completed, is locked in a disagreement with NHS Suffolk over costs.

Senior figures are stalling on signing a final tenancy agreement which will commit the trust to paying £233,000 a year in lease and service charges.

On Wednesday, NHS Suffolk’s board met to discuss the issue and signalled its intention to start building work next month, despite the uncertainty surrounding the trust’s involvement.

An NHS Suffolk spokeswoman said: “The board has showed a commitment to go ahead with the project by approving the business case.

“The project does not rest on West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. We want the trust to come in and expect it to do so.

“There will be no delay caused while we wait for agreement to be reached and we are very pleased to be at this stage.”

If the trust does not come on board, it is thought a new provider could be sought.

All the other occupiers of the health centre, including the Siam Surgery and Suffolk County Council, have indicated they will agree to the terms of the lease.

Sudbury town councillor John Sayers said he was pleased work would be commencing soon, adding that he hoped the trust would sign up.

“It is unbelievable that at this stage, after all the promises that have been made, that this is happening,” he said.

“I am sure the other providers will not be happy and we desperately want this to happen. It has been a long, long wait and there is a great urgency to get the job done.”

Mr Sayers, who has put forward proposals for a 24-foot statue to feature in the centre’s three-and-a-half acre grounds, added that there had been too many setbacks on the project – which originally involved proposals for a new hospital more than 30 years ago.

“It has not been fair on the public and it’s incredible it has taken this time,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said it was expecting to complete negotiations shortly.

Work on the centre was due to start in the autumn but was held up by a delay in the selection of The Assura Medical Centres Ltd as the preferred developer.