Sudbury’s hospitals to homes plan a step nearer

Proposed designs for Walnuttree hospital ENGANL00120121221134339
Proposed designs for Walnuttree hospital ENGANL00120121221134339

The future of Sudbury’s two redundant hospital sites hangs on an agreement which would give Babergh Council a share of the profits to spend on local facilities.

The district’s planning committee this afternoon took the latest step in securing the futures of Walnuttree Hospital in Walnut Tree Lane and St Leonard’s Hospital in Newton Road, which West Suffolk NHS Trust first proposed as housing in November 2013.

In December last year, the committee called for a viability report from an independent consultant and authorised its corporate manger development management, Christine Thurlow, to seek a Section 106 agreement.

The committee decided today to allow senior officers to grant or refuse permission provided an obligation under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act could be secured with the West Suffolk NHS Foundation trust to provide money for facilities, including social housing.

Following negotiations with the trust’s agent, officers recommended an agreement which calls for another viability study prior to the occupation of the final units on each development.

Speaking of St Leonard’s Cllr Nick Ridley asked: “What if the last building doesn’t go up, which is a ploy developers have used?”

Ms Thurlow said the council’s position on Section 106 had originally been ‘robust’ but in discussions they recognised the difficulty the trust might have in finding developers prepared to take it on if the conditions were too harsh.

She added: “It’s important this site is taken up by someone.

“To get the site away we felt that instead of having proposed or estimate figures, this will enable us to get actual figures.”

The planning condition says: “If a profit level in excess of 25 per cent profit on cost is achieved then 50 per cent of the proceeds above this level will accrue to the council.”

The corporate manager can still refuse permission if the trust fails to provide the cash or to secure the conversion of listed buildings on the sites.

The committee approved both plans with only one councillor vote against in each case.

At Walnuttree, which opened as a workhouse in 1837, the plans are for the original building to be converted to 42 homes plus seven new town houses and the demolition of redundant buildings. The site is in Sudbury Conservation Area, but officers say the new buildings are not intrusive.

St Leonards opened as a hospital in the 1860s and the plan is to convert the existing building into three four-bedroom houses with the addition of nine new homes on the site, ranging from a one-bedroomed flat to three-bedroomed houses.