A variety of both traditional and modern methods of engagement were used to enable as many people as possible to participate within the planning process.
This included pre-application discussions with officers at West Suffolk throughout the engagement process. A pre-Statement of Community Involvement was drafted ahead of the engagement work being undertaken to clearly set out the activities to be undertaken and how they responded to requirements.
The pre-application engagement for the new hospital was split into two rounds: the first focussing on the reasons for selecting Hardwick Manor as the preferred site and the second, focussing on the proposals of the outline applications, including illustrative designs, parameter plans and how these have responded to feedback.
The primary objective throughout the engagement process was to carry out an effective engagement on the proposals, at various stages of their development, allowing enough time to inform people about the evolving plans and receive, consider and respond to feedback.
The programme of community engagement ensured that all relevant local stakeholders were kept well-informed about the proposals for West Suffolk Hospital and had opportunities to provide feedback and discuss the plans in more detail.
In addition, the programme sought to engage as widely as possible within the local community and surrounding towns and villages given that people who use the hospital live across West Suffolk and across the border in Thetford. This allowed the local community to provide feedback in various ways in order to ensure responses were maximised.
The engagement timeline saw a total of fourteen in-person events across eight different locations, with a total of 334 attendees. A total of 47,523 newsletters were sent out during the engagement period, updating residents on the site location, proposals and encouraging them to submit feedback either online, via post or at the engagement events. with a total of over 1,700 feedback forms being returned via the post and online. This demonstrated that residents across the different areas including Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill, Thetford, Mildenhall, Sudbury, Newmarket, Brandon, Stowmarket have participated with the planning process.
Meetings with key local stakeholders also took place to brief them on the proposals and answer any questions they had. It is clear from the feedback received that there was overwhelming support for the new hospital and for it to be delivered as quickly as possible.
An Outline planning application was submitted in April 2022 and after three rounds of consultations as the plans were tweaked slightly based on consultee feedback, the application was approved by West Suffolk Planning Committee.