Forest Heath has taken a step closer to becoming one of the few places in the country with its community and leisure services under one roof.
A formal planning application has now been made for a Mildenhall Hub, in Sheldrick Way, l bringing together Mildenhall College Academy, a leisure centre, larger swimming pool, health centre, library and other public services including a Jobcentre and Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
The plans, shaped by public consultation, must now have the full scrutiny of planning approval. The hub is expected to open in spring 2020 with the school moving in that September.
All those involved stressed the benefits went beyond the cash savings of jointly funded building, with better opportunities to work together.
Susan Byles, principal of Mildenhall College Academy, said: “A new building for the academy is something we’ve been campaigning for for many years. The existing building was put up in 1976 and is well past it’s sell-by date.
“It’s high time the community in Mildenhall got the educational facility it deserves.”
She said they had priority school funding but the joint building meant they could have a new school without seeking finance elsewhere.
She also welcomed the opportunities provided by having sports and library facilities on the same site as well as work experience places with its other organisations.
She stressed students have an entrance separate from the public and traffic access and visitors will only be able to enter the school through the hub’s manned reception.
Warren Smyth, chief executive of Abbeycroft Leisure, said they had looked at other joint facilities but there were only one or two in the country with similar levels of services.
He added: “The facilities in Mildenhall are aged and the pool is not meeting Forest Heath’s needs. This facility will meet future demand for growth.”
He and Andrew Eley, West Suffolk Clinical Commisioning Group’s deputy chief operating officer, welcomed the chance for health and leisure to link to encourage ‘self care’.
Mr Eley said: “We’ll have a brand new health centre and the opportunity to work with other stake holders.”
Hub staff will be able to meet people at the health centre and take them to see the leisure centre facilities.
Inspector Mark Shipton, Forest Heath’s policing commander, said the hub meant being able to invest in people instead of property and welcomed how it would facilitate problem solving with other agencies.