Decades of false starts and delays look to be at an end after construction on Sudbury’s new health centre was started.
A sod-cutting ceremony signalling the start of building work on the £10million centre – which will bring all of the town’s health services under one roof – took place last Friday.
Members of the community and NHS officials who have been involved in bringing the project to fruition gathered at the site in Church Field Road, Chilton.
South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo said he was “absolutely thrilled” that work on the health centre, which has been planned in various forms for the past 30 years, was under way.
“It has been a very long road and there have been numerous disputes over sites,” said Mr Yeo.
“It was a big blow in 2005 to find out that Walnuttree Hospital would be closing, but the community has shown wonderful unity and purpose to make this centre happen.
“The spirit of the people involved has been terrific and they deserve tremendous credit because they never lost hope.”
Planning permission for the centre, which will include a 180-space car park was eventually approved in November 2011.
“I know lots of people wanted a hospital, but this is a practical solution and will be very accessible,” added Mr Yeo.
“I am looking forward to seeing it rise from the ground to become a great facility.”
Peter Clifford, chairman of Watch – Working and Acting Together for Community Health – said he was relieved to reach this point.
“I am very pleased we have got here as there have been lots of delays, problems and even a few court cases,” he said.
“There will be excellent services on the site, including x-rays and audiology.”
Mr Clifford said that despite the difficulties, the NHS had worked well in giving the community what it wanted over the last three years.
“The NHS has listened to consultations and made adaptations – that is why it will be a two-storey building,” he said.
“It is a good result and I am looking forward to it opening.”
Mark Marshall, head of corporate development and infrastructure at NHS Property Services, said the centre, which will house all the services provided by Walnuttree Hospital, Acton Lane Clinic, St Leonard’s and Siam GP Surgery, would be crucial to Sudbury.
“This beacon development will support the provision of quality healthcare in the area for decades to come, benefiting local patients and the wider Suffolk community,” he said.
“Now we are working with the community and providers to make sure that, when the time comes, there will be a smooth move into the completed building.”
The groundwork on the centre has already started and workers are on the site. The centre is due to be finished and ready to welcome patients in autumn 2014.