Judicial review claim on hospital redevelopment dismissed despite campaign group opposition

Front of Watford General Hospital with welcome sign at entrance

The work across Watford General (pictured) as well as Hemel Hempstead General and St Albans City, has been heavily scrutinised by campaign groups - Credit: Danny Loo

A high court judge has dismissed claims that Herts Valleys CCG was unlawful in its decision-making process around the redevelopment of hospital buildings in west Herts.

In 2019, a judicial review claim was submitted on behalf of a group of campaigners, alleging that decisions the CCG made in that year to agree a shortlist of sites - and then the preferred option - for the redevelopment of hospital buildings in west Herts were unlawful on the basis of lack of formal public consultation.

The conclusion reached by the judge found that both of the CCG’s decisions were lawful, and the judge has dismissed the claim.

The New Hospital Campaign (NHC) has stated that they will continue the battle to secure a new A&E hospital in west Hertfordshire despite the ruling. 

The NHC explained that the High Court did acknowledge that the campaign group was not given access to the full calculations and projections used to estimate the cost of the new build options, and recognised that NHC’s contribution to the debate about the rejection of those options could have been more fully informed than it was.

A NHC spokesperson said: “Of course we are surprised and disappointed by the judge’s decision but it’s vital to understand this was not about whether it is better to keep patching up the current Vicarage Road site in Watford or to go for a central, clear site for a new hospital fit for the coming decades. It was purely about the process used to reach two decisions that were made a year and a half ago.

"The processes used by the local health bodies in the next decision stage in 2020 have been even more deficient but they could not feature in the legal case."

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The NHC recently commissioned an independent report from a construction specialist, which shows that building on a central site would be more time efficient than making the improvements put forward by the West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT).

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The NHC spokesperson added: “Building on the existing site will involve years of disruption just when we are trying to recover from the pandemic. A solution based on a clear site in a central, accessible location would be so much quicker and safer as well as providing much greater flexibility for the future”.

WHHT said: "Colleagues at West Hertfordshire NHS Hospitals Trust will press on with the work they have been doing, with full support from the CCG, to develop proposals as outlined to our boards in October, and discussed with local people throughout this period.

"We will be doing more in the coming months, building on the extensive engagement already undertaken, to involve local residents in working up the detail for our next submission to regulators and government.

"We all look forward very much to bringing those plans to fruition - in new hospital buildings on the current Watford site and with significant investment on the St Albans and Hemel Hempstead sites."