Campaign calls on council to build new A&E hospital for West Herts

Watford General Hospital. Picture: Danny Loo.

Watford General Hospital. Picture: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

A campaign to build a new hospital central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum has urged the council to consider potential sites as part of their Local Plan.

Andy Love, who created a petition for a new hospital which reached more than 10,000 signatures, wrote to Tracey Harvey, St Albans council’s head of planning and building control, asking her to consider allocating land for development.

Along with members of the New Hospital Campaign (NHC), Andy believes that a new acute A&E hospital in a central location would be more accessible and ultimately less time-consuming than redeveloping the existing Watford General Hospital, which would take 12 years.

The Government responded to the petition by saying that it was a matter for the local NHS trust, which Andy felt was ‘passing the buck’.

In his letter to the council, Andy asked whether the council had considered a site large enough for the new hospital in the Local Plan, given the amount of new housing planned for the district over the next 15 years.

He wrote: “In my opinion, it would be unthinkable for the council to have given little or no consideration to releasing land for a new hospital development given the state and location of West Herts’ only A&E hospital in west Watford.

“Watford General Hospital has no direct bus service from St Albans and taxi fares cost approximately £45 for a round trip. WHHT (West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust) have plans to redevelop Watford General over at least 12 years depending on funding.”

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Andy proposed the former Radlett airfield site as a potential location for the hospital, which is owned by Herts county council, as well as land to the east of Hemel Hempstead owned by Crown Estates, and ‘The Golden Triangle’ in Bricket Wood, which is Green Belt land between Junction 6 of the M1 and Junction 21A of the M25.

He also argued that a new centralised hospital would be the only way to meet increasing patient demand, with the council’s need to build new homes leading to rapid population growth over the next 20 years.

He said: “Dacorum and Watford are equally under pressure to meet housing targets set by the Government, so a new centralised hospital is probably the only solution.

“Watford borough council is backing the call for a new A&E hospital but have proposed that it be built on the current Vicarage Road site. That would be costly and logistically hard to achieve without severe disruption.”

Cllr Mary Maynard, the council’s portfolio holder for planning, said: “During the consultation for our draft Local Plan that identifies land for future development, we contacted ten NHS organisations to see if they wanted to make a response.

“These included strategic bodies such as Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) and NHS England whose role and expertise includes planning for future healthcare needs.

“We did not receive any submissions such as, for example, a request to earmark land for a new hospital.

“However, we will continue to engage with the NHS as the Local Plan progresses so they are aware of likely population trends and can assess the health infrastructure impacts.”

An HVCCG spokesperson said: “We have not made any submissions for land for a new hospital as part of the Local Plan consultation because our locally agreed proposal for future hospital provision is based on developing existing sites.

“Having thoroughly investigated a number of options and carried out significant engagement with the local community we reached the conclusion that a proposal to redevelop the Watford and St Albans hospital sites would be most likely to succeed due to affordability and ease of delivery.

“This proposal was submitted to national NHS regulators, NHS Improvement and NHS England in September 2017. The CCG and West Herts Hospital Trust have been in discussion with them about how best to progress our plans, particularly given urgently needed investment into Watford General Hospital, and we await a definitive response regarding next steps so that we can press forward with implementation.

“We fully appreciate the need to tie into Local Plans as well as taking into account planning and infrastructure considerations.”

To sign Andy’s latest petition for a new hospital on the Radlett Airfield site, go to