‘Deceitful, greedy and plain arrogant’

A POINT OF CONTENTION: More homes have been added to plans to convert Walnuttree Hospital.
A POINT OF CONTENTION: More homes have been added to plans to convert Walnuttree Hospital.

The body behind proposals to convert Sudbury’s Walnuttree Hospital has been labelled “arrogant and greedy” after it reneged on initial plans.

West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust is in the process of applying for permission to convert the site of the redundant hospital – first opened as a workhouse in 1837.

It plans to keep the historic core of the Victorian building, while demolishing other areas to create a total of 44 homes.

Following talks with a number of town groups, it agreed to retain the former outpatients department for community use.

Earmarked as a hall for nearby St Gregory’s Church, it would have served as a meeting place for other organisations, with space for an archive room, too.

But Peter Thorogood, chairman of the Sudbury Society, pictured, said the health trust had chosen to omit this community aspect from revised plans in favour of more housing – a decision he felt was down to money.

“The duplicity and greed of our health trust is beyond comprehension,” he said.

“I was optimistic about the plan to use the outpatients department as a community building and it was a win-win situation.

“Now the trust is submitting plans which have not been seen and we are completely in the dark as there has been no further consultation. The arrogance of the trust is beyond belief.”

Mr Thorogood said that, given the amount of money the trust was expected to make from the sale of People’s Park, it should reinstate its original plan.

“Sudbury is desperate for an archive centre as everything is scattered across the town,” he said.

“We just want councillors to back us because it is for the good of the town.”

In November, after it emerged the initial scheme was not financially viable, the trust said it intended to market the land to developers with full planning permission in place, with cash reinvested into healthcare services in the community.

Peter Clifford, chairman of Sudbury health group Watch, said the trust could not be blamed.

“I personally believe the trust was trying to incorporate community benefits, but its advisors said it was not viable,” he said.

“The most important thing is to save the bulk of the main building – and these plans will do that.”

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust said it had been advised to add a further six homes to the scheme in order to maximise the value of the land.

“We have always been clear that the inclusion of a community building in the plans would be dependent on viability and, unfortunately, studies carried out last year showed the proposal would not be feasible.

“We explained our concerns regarding the viability of the site to members of our liaison forum last year, and have arranged a further meeting with a representative of the Sudbury Society so that we can answer any questions they may have.”

The plans are due to be submitted shortly.