Work starts on Mildenhall civic hub
Work has begun on on creating the Mildenhall Hub to bring a new school, leisure centre and public services under one roof.
Students from Mildenhall College Academy, whose Sheldrick Way sixth form campus adjoins the site, dug the first sods on Monday to mark the start of an archaeological dig and footpath diversion which will precede construction work.
The hub should open in 2020 with a new school to replace the academy's main campus on Bury Road with a leisure centre, pool, council offices, police station, library, health centre and Jobcentre.
Rhodri Gardener, managing director of Suffolk Archaeology, said trial pits had revealed a lone Saxon burial north-west of the sixth-form campus site and evidence of Anglo Saxon buildings south of that.
School playing fields layout has been changed to preserve some archaeology, so they will concentrate on areas affected by building work.
He added: "The conversation between archaeology and designers and planners means we're not going to gung-ho destroy more than we need to."
Academy principal Susan Byles said her students will be involved with the dig on the project she has campaigned for over nearly 10 years.
Looking to the future, she added: "It will be a far better school that it would have been if it wasn't part of the hub. School funding usually only pays for the basics."
A joint project means she can have larger classrooms, a hall and separate dining hall and space for drama while benefitting from lower running costs by sharing facilities like kitchens and solar power.
Forest Heath District Council leader James Waters said: "It's long overdue. The buildings we've got are very tired but well used.
"If anything good has come from budget cuts it's that we're having to work differently and we're working well together to do more with less."
Warren Smyth, Abbeycroft Leisure's chief executive, said: "The hub will create opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of local people by offering top class facilities working seamlessly with health providers and targetting demographics to encourage those not currently active."