Weather fails to put a dampener on £10m health centre progress

TOP STUFF: The topping-out ceremony is completed.
TOP STUFF: The topping-out ceremony is completed.

The opening of Sudbury’s new health centre is just over six months away, despite torrid weather threatening to hold up the project.

The main structure, including the roof of the building in Church Field Road, is up and windows are beginning to go in.

On Tuesday, those who have played a part in helping the facility become a reality were invited to a topping-out ceremony and a tour.

“It is all looking very positive and it will be a huge community benefit when it is done,” said Sudbury mayor Adrian Osborne.

“It has been a long journey, but the doubts have been erased and it will be a marvellous facility.”

Work on the £10million building, which will house the area’s health services, started in May and is expected to be completed by the autumn.

The initial phase of construction has remained on track and, although recent wet weather has held up some aspects of the build, it is running to schedule.

“Everything becomes twice as hard and takes twice as long when it is wet,” said site manager Tony Wortley, from construction firm Galliford Try Partnership.

“There were a few delays over Christmas because of this, but we are confident we will get back on track.”

Efforts to create a new heath centre in the town have been discussed for well over 30 years.

This was largely due to the ageing Walnuttree Hospital and St Leonard’s Hospital.

Dr Anne Nicholls, chairman of Sudbury and Locality Community Group, said the prospect of the building being finished was “tremendously exciting”.

“It is the beginning of the end of the project,” said Mrs Nicholls.

“Walnuttree and St Leonard’s served the people of Sudbury well for a very long time, aided by devoted staff, but they have come towards the end of their useful lives.”

Numerous false dawns have been associated with a new health facility. At one point, work was due to get under way on People’s Park.

More recently, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which will take up a 19 per cent share in the building, was locked in a rent dispute with NHS Suffolk. This squabble put a halt to plans until an agreement was finally reached.

Mrs Nicholls said she was aware of proposals to relocate Walnutree Hospital to the site of Catchpole Court Care Home dating back to 1954.

“Even in 1974, I was told there would be a new facility in Sudbury within the next five years,” she said.

“There have been a number of plans which have encountered problems, disputes about what should go in, land and financial discussions.

“It has been exceedingly difficult and, on a few occasions, I thought it would not go ahead, but I think the people of Sudbury have been very determined to have a new facility and, had that not been the case, it may not have happened.”

Siam Surgery, Serco Services and Suffolk County Council will all occupy the centre, while there will be X-ray, physiotherapy and midwifery services.

“The patients will not have to go from one place to another to get services and it will benefit the staff to be integrated,” added Mrs Nicholls.

Plans for the centre were granted planning consent in 2011 and throughout the project has been led by Mark Marshall, head of corporate development for NHS Property Services in Suffolk.

“There have been lots of ups and downs and this is something we should be very proud of,” said Mr Marshall.

“It has been difficult, but it has also been an immense privilege to be part of.

“It will be a legacy I will always remember.”

It is hoped building work will be finished by mid-August, before services begin to move into the building ready for an opening in the autumn.