MULTI-million pound plans intended to secure the future of Christchurch Hospital have been thrown into doubt after planners rejected the scheme.
A planning meeting at Christchurch Borough Council saw the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospital Trust’s major development scheme for the Fairmile site refused by committee members, who overturned their officers’ recommendation for approval.
Hospital bosses say they are ‘deeply disappointed’ and will have to review what services can be provided at Christchurch and what will have to move to Bournemouth.
The proposal included an extension of the hospital buildings to include the relocated Grove Surgery, a retail pharmacy, the construction of an 80-bed care home and 36 senior living apartments as well as 81 key worker houses and flats.
The plans, which would have created a ‘healthcare campus’, would have retained the Macmillan Unit, bloods unit, X-ray and imaging department as well as outpatients.
But the proposal also included the demolition of the historic H Block, a former workhouse infirmary, which had caused concern among local residents.
Local historian Sue Newman, who wrote the Christchurch and Bournemouth Union Workhouse, told members: “These buildings are steeped in historic significance; it is effectively a death warrant.
“The council commissioned a report into the buildings, and it described H Block of very high significance and said all remaining workhouse buildings on site should be protected against demolition.”
There were also objections from Christchurch Antiquarians, Christchurch History Society and Christchurch Conservation Trust plus letters from the public.
But Richard Renaut, director of service development at the Trust said the £10million investment in the hospital showed they were ‘here for the long-term’ and this was a plan that meant they would stay local to Christchurch.
“Over half the buildings and site are completely empty but we can’t bring them up to standard. This is a development which is sensitive to the area,” he said.
But councillors felt the loss of heritage – despite H Block not being a listed building – and the size of the care home, assisted living accommodation and key worker housing were too imposing on the surrounding area.
Cllr Peter Hall said: “I think it is very important to save our heritage and I think H Block and G Block are worth saving.”
NHS Trust ‘deeply disappointed’ at meeting’s outcome
THE Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Trust said in a statement it was ‘deeply disappointed’ and that the plans ‘would have secured local services’.
It said the NHS faced ‘the stark choice we have of either keeping empty buildings that are no longer fit for providing modern day care, or continuing to provide health services,’ adding, ‘we simply cannot afford to do both’.
It added: “More than 600 people took the time to show support for this scheme, whose opinions appear to have been overlooked.
“H block is a non-listed building in a degraded conservation, which has been empty for three years. We cannot justify investing significant public money in a building that is unfit for delivering any kind of modern health care. The viability of the scheme presented to the committee relied entirely on the demolition of H block.
“The foundation trust, Quantum and the GP practice will jointly review what options we now have. We know that we may lose the funding for the GP practice. We will have to review what health services we can continue to deliver from Christchurch and what can be delivered from the Royal Bournemouth.
“The simple reality is that the £10m+ investment in health care accommodation at Christchurch relied on the funds generated from the nursing home and the key worker and senior living accommodation to make these affordable. Without the scheme as it stands we are no longer in a position to make that investment.”
The trust said it would consider lodging an appeal.