Motion to ensure new hospital for West Herts tabled by MP Sir Mike Penning
- Credit: Archant
Bids to ensure a new hospital is built in West Herts, as opposed to refurbishing the existing Watford General, have taken another stride as Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning has tabled a motion in favour of a new site.
This comes as an additional £590 million could be made available to the trust, and campaigners continue to fight for an entirely new hospital.
The motion reads: “This House notes that the acute hospital in Watford was the first hospital to be built under the reign of Queen Victoria; further notes that the hospital has since been developed in an ad hoc manner and that the deterioration of its facilities has made it harder for the excellent doctors, nurses and auxiliary staff to carry out their work.
“There is a lack of affordable parking facilities for staff, patients and visitors as a result of its location next to a Premier League football club; recognises the further pressure put on the hospital’s facilities following the closure of acute services at St Albans and Hemel Hempstead which were opposed by the majority of local residents – and calls on the government to halt the taxpayer-funded redevelopment of the Watford site and welcome the news that £590m is available for a new acute hospital on a greenfield site that can serve all of the growing population of West Hertfordshire.”
This support has been backed by the New Hospital Campaign, which has been campaigning for the same thing since the initial funding was announced.
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Ron Glatter, on behalf of the NHC, said: “Sir Mike’s initiative is exactly right and very timely. The issues raised by the pandemic now make it imperative to build on a new site.
“Only then could we have the high proportion of single rooms essential for infection control.
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“Building on a clear, open site would provide a level of safety impossible on a constrained site like Vicarage Road with patients undergoing treatment.
“Other schemes are taking a much more ambitious approach and building for the next generation and the one after that.”
The trust has commissioned an independent site feasibility study and valuation advice from Royal Free London Property Services.
There will also be an existing sites valuation to inform “WHHT’s cost benefit and option analysis going forward”, carried out by property consultancy firm Montagu Evans with input from cost consultants Currie & Brown.
Sites being evaluated include land 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.
WHHT is also looking at land in Chiswell Green off the M25 Junction 21, and Radlett Aerodrome.
The Aerodrome site had become the centre of an ongoing fight against a rail freight depot, for which planning permission has already been approved.
Recently, SADC conceded its fight against the freight train and withdrew its proposals for its inclusion in the Local Plan, which would have seen around 2,000 homes built on the Green Belt land.
The full feasibility report is expected to be delivered by July 31.
Amid fears that WHHT will use the funding to revamp Watford General, Sir Mike said: “I will continue to use every opportunity to put pressure on the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust to see common sense. It is obvious to everyone else that trying to upgrade or even rebuild the hospital on the existing site will be nigh on impossible while keeping it fully operational.
“By opting for a new site, the trust could equally serve the people of Hemel Hempstead, Watford and St Albans with easy access, plenty of space for expansion and offer free (and level) car parking for staff, patients and visitors alike.
“It is great news that the trust can now bid for £590 million. It is time to do the right thing and get on with it.
“I understand Watford residents may be worried they will lose their hospital, but there is no reason why they cannot keep some non-acute services on the Vicarage Road site. I urge all neighbouring MPs to back my Early Day Motion.”
Helen Brown, deputy chief executive, said: “We are aware that the mention of potential larger investment is of interest to those who want to see an all new hospital on a new site. This option will be part of our longlist and will be subject to the same rigorous process as the other possibilities we are looking at.
“The Department of Health and Social Care has been clear that we should not consider any options that significantly increase the timescale for delivery of the scheme beyond 2025. Given the very poor condition of some of our buildings, it is essential that improvements are delivered in the fastest possible time.
“In the meantime we continue to make improvements to our existing estate, including a multi-storey car park, which has an expected completion date of spring 2022.”
More information on the trust’s redevelopment plans can be found on westhertshospitals.nhs.uk/about/healthierfutureforwestherts.