Decision due on hospital's £127m revamp

A £127 MILLION scheme to revamp health services in Colchester – centralising them in a six-storey modern hospital complex – could take a major step forward next week.

By Juliette Maxam

A £127 MILLION scheme to revamp health services in Colchester – centralising them in a six-storey modern hospital complex – could take a major step forward next week.

Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust wants to merge all its services in Colchester on the site of the town's general hospital to provide modern facilities able to cope with the region's growing population.

The £127m scheme, to be financed privately, includes a £30 million cancer centre, a £10 million ophthalmology unit, 70 extra hospital beds and an airport-concourse style hospital entrance with a new restaurant and coffee shop for visitors.

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An extra 800 car parking spaces are also included in the plans, making a total of 1,710 – a 10% increase of the Trust's current allocation.

The 183-year-old Essex County Hospital in the town would be closed down and all services transferred to the general hospital.

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Scientific staff working at Severalls Hospital, the microbiology unit on Turner Road and IT staff currently at Colchester Business Park would also be moved onto the general hospital site.

Two main areas of the site are earmarked for expansion – part of the neighbouring former Turner Village Hospital site and the space between Gainsborough Wing and the main hospital building.

Outline plans to be discussed by Colchester Borough Council's planning committee on Thursday show alterations and extensions to the general hospital, up to six storeys high, with a 65% increase in floor space.

An Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust spokesman said: "If this is approved next Thursday, it's a major step forward in this long process which is going to result in a big improved hospital in Colchester which is going to serve all people in north east Essex.

"It is the biggest NHS development in north east Essex since the general hospital opened in 1985 and it will improve facilities enormously."

He added: "It's a long process. We are determined to get it right. It must serve the people of Colchester very well for the foreseeable future. We don't want it to be too small a week after it opens."

If the outline plans are approved, the Trust will then look for a partner from the private sector. After that an architect will be appointed by competition to fill in the details.

Joan Smith, chief officer of North East Essex Community Health Council, said: "We encourage people to look at the plans so any comments can be taken on board right at the outset."

Colchester MP Bob Russell said: "I welcome any improvement in the NHS in my constituency and I feel the residents of Colchester district deserve the best possible NHS facilities and staff who work there also deserve the best possible working conditions."

Myland Parish Council has objected to the plans because of fears over increased traffic and the proposed height of some of the buildings.

Essex County Council learning services team have strong reservations about security and air quality due to the proximity of the main car parking area and energy centre to the proposed new primary school on the Turner Village site.

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