The long-running saga over the fate of a building which is part of Sudbury’s history – Walnuttree Hospital – took another turn this week.
The building’s owners, West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, revealed on Wednesday that it will be applying for full planning permission to convert the hospital in Walnuttree Lane into 36 flats and town houses.
The plans involve preserving some of the Victorian heart of the building in the conversion, with other parts being demolished to make way for three-storey houses with courtyards and landscaping.
Peter Clifford, chairman of Sudbury’s health group Watch, described the plans as “excellent” and said it was good news the trust was seeking full planning permission – a move which ensured there would be a development plan in place that the community wanted and approved of.
However, the news comes as it was revealed the scheme, as it stands, is not currently financially viable.
Mr Clifford said: “Taking into account the current market price of housing and land values, together with the contributions made under section 106 agreements, a viability test conducted by a consultant shows that it’s just not economically viable.
“I understand they had the option of looking at several possibilities to revise the scheme to increase the density of the flats or houses, or to sell the site as it is.
“Applying for full planning permission for the current scheme and marketing the site as such represents the third option I suppose.”
He added: “We’ve got a design which we like and which looks excellent. I think they have listened to the community and what they would like to see built.”
Walnuttree became a hospital in the 1940s but it was first opened as a purpose-built workhouse in 1837.
The NHS trust is also in the process of deciding the fate of other Sudbury landmarks – People’s Park and St Leonard’s Hospital.
Health campaigner Jill Fisher expressed fears that as the Walnuttree scheme was not financially viable, it could be sold off to a developer and demolished with another scheme put in place.
“I am waiting to find out exactly what the trust is applying for in terms of planning permission prior to marketing the site,” she said.
“Walnuttree has always been, as a building, for the people of Sudbury. I am most worried about the fact that we have lost 140 beds.
“Also, where is all the money going to go from the sale? Millions are going to redundancies paid out in the NHS only for people to end up getting moved into other NHS jobs.”