Superhospital mooted for St Albans rail freight site

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Pressure is being brought to bear on both the county council and the local hospitals trust to facilitate the building of a new superhospital on a site earmarked for a giant rail freight depot.

The idea has come from campaigner Andy Love who lives close to Radlett Airfield where developers HelioSlough have got planning permission for a Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI).

Although St Albans council is making what could be a last-ditch bid to challenge the decision by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, Andy believes there is scope for a new hospital to be built on the Green Belt site.

He has written to the West Herts Hospitals Trust and copied in Cllr Robert Gordon, leader of Herts County Council (HCC) which owns a chunk of the former airfield and is expected, at some time, to have to decide whether or not to sell it to HelioSlough.

Although the county council has expressed its opposition to the land being sold for an SRFI with its implications for both the St Albans area and the roads across Herts, Andy believes the time is right to argue the case for a state-of-the-art hospital to serve West Herts.

Currently the health trust runs Watford General as its main emergency hospital with satellite facilities in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

Andy said: “Talking to many residents in the south of St Albans, it has become clear to me that they feel if HCC have a duty to sell the land that is use should be for the benefit of existing Hertfordshire residents and in particular that a new super hospital could be built to serve St Albans, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead and Watford.”

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He pointed out that there would be a lot of benefits including state of the art buildings and medical facilities, excellent road infrastructre and ample land for car parking.

He also cited the fact that such an opportunity was unlikely to emerge again for a site so central to the three existing hospitals and suggested that the sale of those sites would pay for the purchase of the land and its redevelopment.

In addition, Andy argued that a new hospital with the capacity to cope with the growing population of West Herts and which could attract enhanced medical expertise, would be of greater value than the ‘special circumstances’ which prompted the Secretary of State approving a rail freight terminal on Green Belt land.

He added: “I feel the West Herts Trust has a duty to Hertfordshire residents to explore the feasibility of building a new hospital on the Park Street Green Belt site as I feel Hertfordshire County Council would be more comfortable to sell the land for this use than for an SRFI or housing.”

He said it would demonstrate that the county council’s prime motive if it decided to sell the land would not be profit.

Andy’s comments have been passed on the hospital trust’s director of estates for his comments.