Western Way Development: New Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre and public service village plans move forward as councillors approve final business case
Councillors have approved the final business case for a multi-million pound public service village in Bury St Edmunds including a new leisure centre.
Tonight, members of West Suffolk Council unanimously supported the £143.7 million Western Way Development plans, which would bring public services together on one site.
It would also replace and upgrade the 44-year-old Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre.
Cllr Jo Rayner, portfolio holder for leisure, culture and community hubs, said: "It's a large and ambitious scheme but the benefits that it will bring to our community are enormous."
Councillors agreed that council expenditure for the development will be capped at £112 million with a further £27.9 million for the leisure centre - funded by borrowing.
This excludes £12.9 million plans for a pre-school and upto 150 units of West Suffolk College student accommodation which, if the authority was involved directly in their delivery, would be subject to separate final business cases.
The council will now look at applying for planning permission which could unlock further external investment.
There will also be a review to look at finances, ensure the council has legal assurances from partners and examine the project risks before committing to a final scheme.
The new leisure centre would be built on the council’s depot in Olding Road while the steel frame of the depot building and an adjoining warehouse would be re-used for a facility to house public services.
The business case says that replacing the leisure centre now is ‘likely to save taxpayers around £15 million over the next 30 years’.
Improvements to the skatepark and a new athletics pavilion are also factored into the £27.9 million leisure centre plans.
The public service building would accommodate community health services, public sector offices, commercial office space and conference facilities. Discussions have involved the police, Citizens’ Advice Bureau, NHS, central government, Abbeycroft Leisure and West Suffolk College.
After the meeting, Cllr Rayner said: “This will be an exemplar initiative nationally on not only how all publicservices can share buildings and space but work in a more joined up way to be better than the sum of their parts.
"Evidence is clear that when services such as health, leisure, education and other public services are put together that not only is it easier to access services but also the outcomes are much better.
"By sharing public services we also open up land they previously occupied for other uses, such as much needed homes.
"The finances currently show that it is capable of paying for itself over time but before any contracts are awarded there will be a formal process to have a further in-depth look at costs."
More by this authorPaul Derrick