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FAQs

How long is this consultation running for?

The second round of engagement will run from Monday, 1 November – Sunday, 12 December with all feedback submitted during this time reviewed after it has concluded.

The project team will take this opportunity to review all feedback gathered in both rounds of engagement whilst finalising the outline planning application.

 

What is the next stage of the process?

  • November/December 2021 - Second round of pre-application public engagement
  • December 2021/January 2022 – Project team reviews feedback and finalises technical documents
  • Early 2022 - Planning application submitted to West Suffolk Council
  • Summer 2022 – Planning application determined by the West Suffolk Council Planning Committee

 

Is this the only event you’re holding?

No – we’re also holding in person events at the following locations:

  • Mildenhall
    The Jubilee Centre, Mildenhall, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP28 7HG
    Tuesday 16th November – 3pm-7pm
  • Bury St Edmunds
    The Apex, Charter Square, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 3FD
    Wednesday 17th November – 2pm-8pm
  • Sudbury
    Assembly Room, Sudbury Town Hall, Old Market Place, Sudbury, CO10 1TL
    Thursday 18th November – 3pm-7pm
  • Haverhill
    Main Hall, Chalkstone Community Centre, Millfields Way, Haverhill CB9 0JB
    Tuesday 23rd November – 2pm-6pm
  • Newmarket
    Memorial Hall, High Street, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8JP
    Thursday 25th November – 3pm-7pm
  • Stowmarket
    Main Hall, Stowmarket Community Centre, Hillside, Stowmarket, IP14 2BD
    Monday 29th November – 4pm-8pm
  • Brandon
    Brandon Leisure Centre, 20 Church Road, Brandon, IP27 0JB
    Thursday 2nd December – 4pm-8pm
  • Thetford
    Main Hall, The Charles Burrell Centre, Staniforth Road, Thetford, IP24 3LH
    Tuesday 7th December – 1pm-5pm

 

Background

Why is a new hospital required?

West Suffolk Hospital has been serving the local community at its current location at Hardwick Lane since 1974. The hospital has continued to evolve on the site with significant renovations and the addition of several new buildings. These include a number of clinical areas to improve patient experience, such as our state-of-the-art Cardiac Centre, Labour Suite, and Acute Assessment Unit.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) has invested heavily in the upkeep of the buildings over recent years to ensure that the existing hospital is appropriately maintained, and we are able to continue to provide high quality health services for our community. However, whilst many patients praise the care that they receive, many of the buildings have already exceeded their intended 30-year life span and are showing signs of wear and tear. The buildings and the layout of the hospital have limitations that do not allow us to deliver the 21st century healthcare that we believe our patients and staff deserve.

 

Do the plans have the backing of the government?

The need for a new hospital has been acknowledged nationally and in 2020, as part of the Health Infrastructure Plan (HIP), West Suffolk was confirmed as one of 40 new hospitals across the country that the government had committed to build by 2030.

 

Why are you applying for outline planning permission?

The process of applying for outline planning permission simply seeks to determine if the principle of a new hospital on the Hardwick Manor site is acceptable. The application will also examine the maximum size of any building, its location and look at other external matters like highway capacity.

Securing outline planning permission is a significant milestone on our journey to building a new hospital and we hope you will support us in bringing this to fruition. Should the outline planning application be supported and approved, this will mean that the site could become our new home and your new hospital for generations to come. The submission of the outline planning application means that we are one step closer to making this a reality. Should outline planning permission be granted, the next step will be the reserved matters process.

 

 

 

About the site

Would you build on Hardwick Heath?

No, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust do not have any plans to build on Hardwick Heath. 

 

Will the existing hospital be turned into a housing development?

The demolition of the existing main hospital building will be included in the outline planning application.

 

What will happen to the Hardwick Lane site?

Subject to business case approval, it is the Trust’s intention to retain the whole site.  

 

What happens to Hardwick Manor in the meantime?

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust security teams are conducting regular patrols of the building and grounds. Staff are being retained to maintain the property and gardens.

 

Will you knock down the Manor House?

During the first phase of pre-application public planning engagement, queries were raised around the trees on the Hardwick Manor site as well as the Manor building.  

The indicative plans demonstrate our intention to keep the Hardwick Manor building and to incorporate it into our plans in connection with the provision of new health services at the new hospital.  

  

How big is the Hardwick Manor site?

The Hardwick Manor site is 70 Acres

 

What about the arboretum?

We intend on retaining the arboretum and as many trees as possible as we appreciate how important it is for wildlife and the natural benefits greenery has on the wellbeing of our patients and staff.

 

 

Site constraints and opportunities

What about the wildlife and trees?

In terms of the parkland setting of Hardwick Manor, we have appointed an arboricultural consultant who specialises in veteran trees and a veteran tree survey, as well as a full tree survey, has been carried out to provide us with information as to what is present on the site. This allows us to gain management advice to ensure the best chance of successful retention recognising both the special and significant habitat and historic landscape and cultural value offered by these trees.

Each veteran tree will have its own Individual Tree Management Plan (ITMP) to maximise the potential for longevity of the tree as a standing live individual wherever possible. Each ITMP identifies a plan for the tree in its current situation with the long-term goal to be achieved over one or more decades, and will generally involve more than one stage of treatment. That being said, we recognise that some of the trees are likely to experience a transitional change in their setting and each ITMP will be developed to mitigate any negative impacts.

Assessing the Hardwick Manor parkland setting forms part of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that we have commissioned and the landscape, visual impact, ecology / protected species and other aspects are being assessed to ensure that appropriate mitigation, where required is included. 

A full suite of protected species (including bat surveys), botanical and fungi surveys have been and continue to be undertaken to provide us with a deep understanding of what is there. The Natural England Biodiversity Metric will be used prior to us submitting our outline planning application with the aim of achieving a biodiversity net gain.

 

What is an EIA?

Due to the regional importance of a new hospital, the planning application is supported by a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).  EIA is a legal requirement in planning, for certain types of projects that have the potential to cause significant environmental effects. 

It is a very thorough process, initially requiring extensive surveys to be undertaken, to collect data to understand the local area (everything from road infrastructure through to protected species and habitats present). Competent experts then use this data to understand what the potential impacts of the project would be on the environment and how best to reduce, or where possible, prevent them.  

 

Is this project sustainable?

Due to the regional importance of a new hospital, the planning application is supported by a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).  EIA is a legal requirement in planning, for certain types of projects that have the potential to cause significant environmental effects. 

It is a very thorough process, initially requiring extensive surveys to be undertaken, to collect data to understand the local area (everything from road infrastructure through to protected species and habitats present). Competent experts then use this data to understand what the potential impacts of the project would be on the environment and how best to reduce, or where possible, stop them.  

A full technical team has been appointed to advise on the sustainability credentials and net zero carbon approach for the new hospital.

 

Car parking and transport

 Will there be enough car parking?

Car parking and transport was a key area highlighted in the first phase of the pre-application public planning engagement. A number of options are being reviewed and our ambition is to deliver all the necessary parking on the site. 

We will be aiming to deliver all car parking necessary on our site through accessible parking spaces on Hardwick Manor, and a mixture of new car park provision and retained car parking on Hardwick Lane. (depending on the extent of the Hardwick Lane site that will be retained.)

 

Will I still be able to access the new hospital by bus?

We are exploring the possibility of providing a bus stop on the Hardwick Manor site and are discussing this with local bus operators. This means that patients will have a reduced distance to walk and provide additional ways of travelling to the site.  

 

Will you be providing additional bus services and/or extending the running hours of the current services?

We are in conversation with local bus operators to explore what may be possible in terms of delivering bus services to the new site. 

 

Will parking be free at the new site?

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust fully intend to take this opportunity to review our parking fee structure, our green travel policy and the opportunities to drive improvements in the way we deliver services. Every penny that the Trust collects from parking contributes to the care of patients and improvement of the services we offer.

 

 

What have your traffic surveys found?

As well as looking at ways to make the site more accessible via sustainable transport methods, detailed traffic surveys are also being carried out in conjunction with Suffolk County Council Highways to understand the impact of the development on traffic together with potential road and junction improvements.

We have identified that this project creates an opportunity to allow traffic to move around our site in a more efficient way. For example, the pedestrian access from Hardwick Heath to the entrance of our existing hospital delays cars and ambulances entering the site which sometimes backs onto the Highway. We expect this issue to be resolved in any new layout and we want to make it safer and more comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists too.


 

Clinical services

What clinical services will you provide?

We are at an early stage of developing our plans for the new hospital. The new hospital’s flexible and adaptable design will be able to adjust to new clinical ways of working and allows for the services that need to be delivered from the main hospital site to continue to be delivered at the proposed Hardwick Manor site.  

 More information on how to be involved in the design of our clinical services can be found on our website at https://www.wsh.nhs.uk/New-healthcare-facility/

 

How do I get involved in the clinical design?

More information on how to be involved in the design of our clinical services can be found on our website at https://www.wsh.nhs.uk/New-healthcare-facility/

 

How many beds will there be in the new healthcare facility?

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust are in the early stages of development. The number of beds will be determined by a number of factors, for example what is required and the space available. Our patients and staff will work with us to help determine what is needed now and in the future.

 

Do you see this an opportunity to integrate services?

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has been working with neighbouring health trusts, community services, local GPs, mental health providers, the voluntary sector and charitable organisations to see if there are opportunities for provider collaboration and integrated care. This will form part of the clinical vision that is being produced.

The programme board is also made up of leaders from all of the local health providers including St. Nicholas Hospice, the local mental health provider and the clinical commissioning group.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust recognised that if the health system can work together so much more can be achieved.

 

Will the new development change the relationships between the WSH and the University of Cambridge or with University of Suffolk?

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is proud of its relationship with University of Suffolk and the University of Cambridge. The hospital accommodation has recently been expanded to accommodate the increase in submissions to the University of Cambridge course.

One of benefits of the Hardwick Manor site is that the accommodation block can be retained.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is also currently in talks with the University of Suffolk about an integrated healthcare academy in order to continue to provide a way to support the workforce of the future. 

 

New hospital building

What is the footprint proposal of the new healthcare facility?

Our outline planning application will be seeking to maximise the opportunity of our preferred site to meet all the future health needs identified by our staff and patients. The illustrations and indicative plans presented have been prepared to provide maximum future flexibility, however, they may not exactly represent what we eventually build.

 

How tall will the building be?

We are at the early stage of our design process so we do not know for definite as yet. For planning purposes a building between 4 to 6 storey’s plus roof plant space is proposed, which will result in a building height between 24 to 32 m from ground level. The existing slope / contours of the site will be utilised to minimise the visual impact of the building; however, from certain views the building will extend above the boundary tree belt.

Strategic locations have been agreed with the Local Planning Authority, to assess the impact on views, and a full visual impact assessment will be included within the planning application.

Landscape screening will be used to minimise the visual impact on near neighbours, and for longer views where the building extends above the existing tree canopy, the design will be articulated to minimise the overall massing of the building. Materials selection and colours will also be agreed with the Local Planning Authority to minimise the visual impact of the building.
 

What is the design of the new hospital?

We recognise that visiting a hospital is not always a pleasant experience, it can be stressful and anxiety inducing. We have taken this feedback onboard and included this in the indicative design of the potential new hospital building; the circular building will be the first element that you see and represents the ‘welcoming face’ of the organisation.

The extended blocks, known as ‘arms’, maximise the use of light and views and are ready to welcome visitors, patients and staff. The ambition is for each of these “arms” to have access to gardens and outside spaces which we know is important to both patients and staff.

These designs are purely to support our outline planning application. Further illustrations and plans will be refined as we work with our staff, patients and local community.


Construction

How much will this development cost?

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust are in the early stages of development. Any costings will be subject to approval and based on the plan developed with the local community.

 

Will construction work take place at a weekend?

West Suffolk NHs Foundation Trust are mindful of the impact on our neighbours, this includes the times that construction work takes place. Once The Trust are in a position to confirm construction timescales this will be communicated with those affected, and if necessary, engagement will take place.

We will work closely with West Suffolk Council to clearly set out the hours of construction on site. These will be adhered to and monitored by the construction team.

 

 

When is construction likely to begin?

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust are in the early stages of planning and development. The beginning of the construction phase is several years away and subject to business case approvals, and the Trust plan to finish the build by 2030. 

As timescales are confirmed, we will engage further with the public. 

 

Site selection

 How have you decided where to build the new hospital?

To progress plans, we have worked closely with a dedicated team of partners to select a site upon which to build our new hospital.  This is a hugely important decision, an extensive process has been undertaken by a team of specialists from technical disciplines including planning, architecture, transport and ecology to name a few.

More than 20 potential sites were initially identified and from this ‘long list’, four were found to best support the needs and ambitions of the project. The other sites assessed were discounted for a variety of reasons such as the size of the site, availability, suitability and deliverability.

 

Where were the four possible sites?

These were; the redevelopment of the current hospital at Hardwick Lane, Rougham Airfield, Westley and Hardwick Manor.

 

What did the selection process entail?

Using a thorough and objective evaluation process, each of these four sites were rated. This included a technical assessment which looked at elements focussed on the ability of each site to support the delivery of a new hospital. We then sought views and feedback from public, staff and patient representatives on non-technical areas such as ease of accessing the sites and the impact each would have upon our environment.

As the project has progressed, the importance of natural surroundings in which to be treated and work has become apparent and is a further consideration. Existing research has shown the positive benefits that being able to enjoy dedicated outside spaces can have on patient and staff wellbeing.  We want the new hospital to be a place where staff enjoy coming to work and which supports our patient’s recovery.

The main differentiating factors between the shortlisted sites were found to be;

  • The risk associated with being able to buy the land and the relative complexity of the construction process
  • The cost of the overall project
  • The impact that a site might have on patient and staff wellbeing

 

I thought a new hospital was going to be built as Westley. Why is it not?

This site, close to the A14, on the edge of Westley has long since been identified within West Suffolk Council’s plan for the town as a location for a new West Suffolk Hospital. 

Despite being earmarked for health purposes, there is no guarantee that we would be able to buy the land. Historically, other NHS hospitals have faced challenges in obtaining land and this was a concern. The purchase of this site is made more difficult by the fact that it has multiple owners, all of whom would need to agree a sale and a price. The site has also been identified for residential development, a fact that complicates the planning process and increases the cost of a development as a relief road would be required to accommodate both provisions.  To avoid the operational difficulties of a hospital split over two sites, a ‘greenfield’ site such as Westley would need to host our entire hospital and its associated buildings. This would lead to the demolition of modern buildings and the need to acquire a significant piece of land – both of which would increase cost and wastage.

As mentioned, the ability of a site to provide access to a natural environment is an important factor in the recovery of patients and the wellbeing of staff. The Westley site does not have access to green space and the hospital would be in close proximity to a major road, a railway a housing estate and a relief road.

 

Why not Rougham Airfield?

Similar to Westley, the site at Rougham is not owned by the Trust and there is a risk that we would not be able to buy it. 

Other sites evaluated were able to make use of existing accommodation. At Rougham Airfield, we would need to re-construct the whole hospital currently on Hardwick Lane, including the buildings which have recently been built and/or remain fit for purpose. This would lead to a greater amount of land being required, in comparison to some other sites, and additional buildings being constructed meaning the overall project cost would increase.

As with Westley, the positive benefits of green space for patients and staff and the effect this has on patient experience was a consideration.  Rougham Airfield doesn’t have the same potential to provide access to a heath and parkland setting in the same way that other sites evaluated did.

 

Did you look at redeveloping the current hospital site?

Given that the Trust already own the land at Hardwick Lane, the risk associated with acquiring it is negated.

The estimated costs of a phased development, where we demolish and rebuild parts of the site in stages, are high due to it being a longer process I.e., the longer we require a construction team, the higher the cost. This makes the project less affordable.

Redeveloping our existing site whilst maintaining our current level of clinical services and avoiding major disruption to patient care and experience, would prove problematic. As this is a significant reason, this option did not score highly during the evaluation process.

 

I saw last year that you selected Hardwick Manor as your preferred site, why was this chosen?

Whilst Hardwick Manor did not score as highly as some other sites on matters like ecology or transport, it did achieve the highest score overall and has a number of significant benefits: 

The Trust already owns the site which eliminates the risk of not being able to purchase it. We purchased the site when it became available to maximise our choices when considering options for the location of a new hospital.

It is located in close proximity to the current site. This means that we can continue to use the modern facilities on Hardwick Lane, such as such as the potential to retain existing car parks, the education centre our new staff accommodation, Quince House, the sterile services unit, the Education Centre, and the Day Surgery Unit. Re-locating the main hospital building to Hardwick Manor will ensure existing close relationships with partners such as Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, St. Nicholas Hospice and Busy Bees nursery can continue.

Research has shown the positive benefits that green space has on the recovery of patients and the wellbeing of staff. The  setting of Hardwick Manor provides real benefits in this area.

 

Environment

How will you manage impacts to the environment as a result of the new hospital and ensure the environment is not damaged?

As part of the Outline Planning Application, a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is being carried out by competent experts in fields such as air quality, noise reduction, ecology and water management etc. EIA is a legally recognised requirement and tool required by the Town and County Planning Act EIA Regulations (2017) in the planning of developments of a certain size and potential environmental impact. The process allows us to identify the potential impacts on the environment, and to identify suitable mitigation which can be put in place to remove or reduce these impacts. The EIA also allows us to identify opportunities to create improved environmental conditions, such as creating additional habitats to increase biodiversity to the site.

 

Will the development affect the existing air quality surrounding the existing hospital site?

Ordinarily during the construction of new buildings, some temporary impacts to air quality (for instance dust) would occur from activities such emissions from machinery on site, construction traffic and construction / demolition activities resulting in dust deposition. As part of the EIA assessment, we are assessing effects on air quality and agreeing mitigating measures to reduce these impacts to levels deemed acceptable. Local air quality will therefore not deteriorate to levels deemed unacceptable and harmful to human health as a result of the construction of the Hospital, in line with nationally recognised air quality guidance and legislation.

During operation of the new hospital, air quality may be affected by emissions from road traffic in the area related to the new hospital, and emissions from the emergency backup generators. Modelling of the environmental conditions will take place as part of the EIA process, to determine what the air quality conditions would be once the development has been built. Using this model, mitigating measures will be decided as part of the process to reduce the impacts to acceptable levels in line with nationally recognised air quality guidance and legislation.

 

Will noise levels increase during construction and operation of the new hospital?

It is anticipated that there would be temporary increases in noise levels during construction due to construction traffic vehicles and certain construction activities. We have identified the specific residential properties surrounding the existing site which may be affected by changes in noise levels and have included them within modelling. As part of the EIA process, measures will be identified and implemented during construction to reduce noise disturbance to acceptable levels, such as by using noise barriers, mufflers, restricting certain activities etc. The noise levels during construction will be monitored and if these reach unacceptable levels, measures will be taken to reduce it to levels deemed acceptable, in line with nationally recognised noise and vibration legislation and guidance.

Specific receptors will be identified as part of the EIA process which may be susceptible to permanent or temporary noise level increases during operation of the new hospital. Increases are likely to be due to new plant on site, road traffic noise associated with the development and noise from the proposed helipad on site. For those receptors identified which would experience significant increases in noise levels, mitigation will be developed to ensure noise levels are reduce to acceptable levels

We will also be consulting with and seeking early engagement with Public Health and Housing Officers at West Suffolk Council regarding noise.

 

How will you ensure that biodiversity on site is not harmed by the proposed development?

As part of the EIA process, extensive surveys for protected species and habitats have been undertaken on site to understand the existing biodiversity present on site, and within the vicinity such as designated nature conservation sites. This includes surveys to confirm the presence (or absence) of species such as bats, breeding birds, great crested newts and rare flora. Mitigation will be defined during the EIA process to ensure impacts to these species are avoided or reduced as far as possible, during both construction and operation of the hospital. This may include moving particular species to other suitable areas to ensure they are not harmed and implementing methods to make the site as attractive as possible to wildlife; for instance landscaped areas, the design of drainage ponds and long term management of the site.

The existing site has notable ecology and the importance of protecting this has been identified within the EIA biodiversity assessment. Certain ecological features,  such as veteran trees, will be retained to prevent the loss of important features. We will follow current and emerging best practice and seek to design a development with no net loss of biodiversity and one which potentially in the medium term, which will result in a net gain. We will endeavour to find creative solutions to replace as much biodiversity lost as possible on site, and identifying additional sites within the vicinity which can be utilised to create new habitats and protect them under long term management.

 

There are important cultural heritage features within the vicinity of the development, such as Hardwick Heath. Will these be affected?

A heritage consultant and an archaeological consultancy has been commissioned as part of the EIA to complete a full desk-based assessment and walkover survey of the site to identify the heritage features present. Important heritage features on site and within the vicinity of the Site with the potential to be affected by the proposed development include Hardwick Manor, the walled gardens, Hardwick Heath, Horsecroft Hall and Cottage, Lodge Cottage and potential buried archaeological deposits. This October an archaeological geophysical survey was undertaken in late 2021 / early 2022 targeted trial trenching will be carried out on site to seek to identify if there are any buried archaeological remains present on the site. The Trust's consultants are engaging with Suffolk County Council Archaeological Serviec.

Hardwick Heath will not be affected entirely by the development and will still be accessible during construction, however there may be impacts on the setting of Hardwick Heath. Mitigation to remove impacts or reduce them as far as possible will be determined as part of the EIA process.

 

Is there contaminated land on the existing site and could this cause impacts to health?

The potential for contaminated land on site has been identified relating former buildings on site, in the presence of ‘made’ or previously used land. A thorough ground investigation has been undertaken and a second ground investigation is planned later this year to confirm the local ground and groundwater quality. It is not anticipated that contaminated land represents a significant issue for this site and if contaminants are identified they will be relatively simple to address. Safety measures will be implemented to ensure any potential impacts are managed effectively.