Campaigners for new West Herts hospital call for St Albans council to back alternative proposals
- Credit: Archant
The Herts Valley Hospital campaign has put forward its own idea for a new hospital site – and hopes to enlist the support of St Albans District councillors – amid ongoing site inspections carried out by West Herts Hospitals Trust.
The campaign is opposed to the redevelopment of Watford General, the current favoured option of the trust.
Herts Valley’s proposed site sits between the three current hospitals – St Albans City Hospital, Watford General and Hemel Hempstead General Hospital – and has “a willing landowner”.
According to Herts Valley, in exchange for a new hospital at no cost, the land owners would seek permission for development on adjacent land.
This would potentially solve St Albans District Council’s Local Plan housing shortfall following the removal of Radlett’s Park Street proposals to make way for a controversial rail freight depot.
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The land known as Plot 11, off the M25, Junction 21 in Chiswell Green, is Herts Valley’s preferred site, and the group has already been in contact with landowners.
WHHT is already looking at Herts Valley Hospital’s suggested land, as well as a site east of A41 and Crown Estate land east of Hemel Hempstead – which has been earmarked for the development of 3,100 new homes, schools and infrastructure in St Albans District Council’s Local Plan.
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It is also looking at the Radlett Aerodrome site in Park Street, which is already earmarked for the aforementioned rail freight depot, with planning permission granted.
A member of the campaign, Steve Day. said: “Having a willing landowner and our proposed site being central to all service users alone makes our proposal the most viable alternative to the redevelopment of Watford General Hospital.
“For many reasons we feel now to be the appropriate time to ensure all councillors are aware of our intentions and we hope to enlist support for our initiative once people have had an opportunity to fully consider our proposal.
“While centrally located, the land in question falls under the jurisdiction of SADC.”
This proposal comes following the news of additional funding could be made available to the trust. It had initially stated there was not enough funding for a brand new site – something the campaigners say is no longer an excuse.
Helen Brown, deputy chief executive of WHHT, said: “We continue to share information about the appraisal process for the sites and will be holding another session with stakeholders in the coming weeks to explain this in more detail.
“We will also be talking to them about the site review and the part it will play in our decision making.
“The site review is being carried out at present and we will publish its results later this month.
“It looks at the deliverability of five sites – including the current Watford General site – and is being conducted by two external organisations who have proven expertise in this field.
“We await their report and so cannot comment at this stage on potential completion dates for new builds or a redevelopment option at Watford.”
Steve continued: “Turning to planning aspects of the matter, in return for the provision of land for a new hospital at no cost, the landowners would seek consent for enabling development on adjacent land.
“The decision to cease objection to the rail freight terminal site now means SADC face a huge shortfall in housing numbers.
“This could force the council to scrap the emerging Local Plan completely and start again.
“There’s also the potential risk of central government intervention in the plan process should it be felt St Albans District Council were unable to fulfil its objectives.
“As the landowner holds some 200 acres, both the hospital and significant enabling development could be provided in one location, so a potential ‘win win’ situation, a situation that is unique and that cannot be matched elsewhere in the district.”
The campaign group is calling for St Albans councillors to back its proposals.
A spokeswoman for the council told the Herts Ad that – as it is the local planning authority – the council as an organisation does not comment on planning matters related to specific sites because “all applications must be considered on their merits and not pre-determined”.