THE new Townlands Hospital in Henley has been delayed again.
Construction of the £8.7 million health campus was due to begin this month but is now not scheduled to start before October.
This is the seventh delay to the project, which has meant the start date has slipped back by more than three years from the original one. Construction, once started, will take about two years to complete.
NHS England Thames Valley is still finalising the details of the 18-bed hospital, incorporating the new Sue Ryder hospice, which will move from Nettlebed, as well as a 64-bed care home to replace Chilterns End and 44 new “key worker” homes.
Project director Riana Relihan has refused to reveal the reason for the latest delay and insists that it is close to being resolved so that developer Amber Solutions for Care can start work.
She said: “As with all these projects, something always comes up that requires resolution towards the end of the negotiations.
“We have had a six-week period to resolve a matter, which I cannot disclose at the moment, though I believe we are just about to finalise the final solution.
“We are still working away in the background on the scheme with everyone committed and on track.”
Oxfordshire County Council has set aside almost £7.8 million for the development and South Oxfordshire District Council has granted planning permission.
The new hospital was originally scheduled to be ready in 2011.
The first delay in October 2009 was caused by the trust initiating planning talks with the district council too late.
A month later, health chiefs added a year to the project timeline, predicting that a contract would be awarded in December 2011. In May 2010, they were forced to scrap the project’s entire procurement plan because of a risk of legal challenges, causing a delay of up to another year.
In November 2010, it was announced there would be a three-month delay in awarding the final tenders. In January 2011, then project leader Richard Darch claimed that the hospital would be completed this year.
Five months later, the project was held up by another four months when the trust was forced to adopt a new timetable due to the Government’s re-organisation of the health service, including the decision to scrap primary care trusts.
In January this year, insurance company Aviva plunged the project into doubt when it stalled on the release of a £7million loan towards its cost.
The company feared its investment could be devalued by the abolition of primary care trusts but an agreement was eventually reached with the Department of Health. The wrangle over the loan caused a delay of around six months.