Countess of Chester Hospital gets approval for new £110m women’s and children’s services building
A state-of-the-art new £110m building at the Countess of Chester Hospital has been rubber-stamped, despite claims by one councillor that the hospital trust was trying to ‘railroad’ the planning department into accepting the plans.
Cheshire West and Chester’s planning committee gave the green light to the new building, which will house women’s and children’s services, along with a temporary 436-space car park which will be operational during the construction phase.
The 12,000 sq m new facility is considered necessary in part due to the old 70s era building being partly constructed with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, a material which is no longer in use, has been identified as being at risk of ‘sudden collapse’ and needs to be removed by the end of the decade.
The three floor new facility will have a link to the existing hospital building along with ambulance and vehicle pick-up and drop off point. Facilities will include paediatrics, neonatal, maternity, ultrasound, fertility and gynaecology.
Upton By Chester District Parish Council had objected, mainly citing concerns over the proposed temporary car park as well as impact on the green belt. It also raised concerns about the design of the building not being in keeping with nearby Bache Hall.
Concerns were also raised about construction of the temporary car park on the open space to the front of the 1829 building, with fears over loss of green space for community use.
Speaking at the planning meeting as a visiting councillor, Upton Cllr Jill Houlbrook said the local community faced ‘six years of disruption and travel nightmares’.
She said: “In my opinion, this would not be the first time the trust has attempted to railroad the planning authority into approving an application.
“It seems to me that the case officer has needed to push the boundaries of viability and recommending the approval of this application. The decision to give approval hangs by very, very tenuous planning thread, and I suspect driven by the wish to support the NHS Trust and retain access to funding, rather than an overwhelming desire to improve the application.”
Committee member Cllr Phil Herbert said he had previously worked at the hospital for 25 years and felt that the building needed to be replaced.
He said: “Physically, there is no one else for this building to go on the site. The building there currently is not fit for purpose. It was well past its sell by date a number of years ago. It really does need to be replaced with a modern building for the generations to come.”
The application was passed with six votes in favour and three against.
But planning vice chair Cllr Gina Lewis who was chairing the meeting, added: “I do hope that the representative of the hospital has listened to some of the discussion and will move forward on some of the suggestions that have been made, I think there is some valid work that needs to be done there.”
By Mark Smith – Local Democracy Reporter
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