Hospital land row victory

HEALTH campaigners have won a crucial battle in their fight against plans to sell-off NHS land for houses as part of a major Essex hospital redevelopment.

By Juliette Maxam

HEALTH campaigners have won a crucial battle in their fight against plans to sell-off NHS land for houses as part of a major Essex hospital redevelopment.

NHS bosses are planning to knock down Harwich Hospital, in Main Road, Dovercourt, and replace it with a £40 million state-of-the-art hospital and health centre.

The privately-financed scheme originally included selling part of the land for private housing – to the dismay of many local people.

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Tendring Health Action Group chairman Vickie Williams collected 2,500 names in a petition against the housing development.

Harwich MP Ivan Henderson also appealed to the chief executive of NHS Estates and the Government not to sell off the land, which was originally given by the people of Harwich to the town's hospital.

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But yesterday it was announced the NHS will be not be applying for permission to build houses on the land in its detailed planning application for the site, due to be submitted to Tendring District Council today .

On today's planning application the land originally earmarked for housing will now be marked for "potential future healthcare use".

Mr Henderson said: "The new community hospital for Harwich will be welcomed by the overwhelming majority of local residents but the issue of the residual land is the one aspect many people are unhappy about.

"The PCT (Tendring Primary Care Trust) and myself appreciated this concern and I have been working closely with chief executive Paul Unsworth to seek a solution. The news that the Secretary of State has taken on board our arguments and private housing is no longer part of this planning application will be welcomed by everybody."

Mrs Williams said: "It's good news. They have listened to what we said."

She said possible uses for the land, which still belongs to NHS Estates, include planting trees on it and using it as a garden for patients.

Mrs Williams, who has been shown the plans by Mr Unsworth, said she is also pleased that a 24-hour minor injuries unit is included and that the new hospital will continue existing links with one of the town's maritime heroes, Captain Fryatt, to whom the original hospital was built in memoriam.

Mr Unsworth said: "This is wonderful news. I should stress that the Secretary of State's decision to review this application does not mean the land is now automatically ours, but it is a very significant move forward as far as we and I am sure many local people are concerned.

"We now have to sit down and demonstrate the need for the land - and this will certainly involve talking with the local population - and then at how the land can be purchased."

He added: "The redevelopment of the hospital and Dovercourt health centre has been planned without taking this piece of land into the equation so this land is not crucial to our redevelopment plans.

"However, we now have an opportunity to consider the longer term effects of a port development, population changes and demand by other healthcare organisations such as the mental health trust to have a presence on the site."

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