THE man in charge of the redevelopment of Townlands Hospital says “it will all come good”.
Harold Caldwell was speaking at a meeting of the Townlands Steering Group called following the ninth delay to the £8.7 million project.
As the Henley Standard reported two weeks ago, building work will not now start until the spring at the earliest, meaning it has now slipped back by more than three years.
Mr Caldwell is interim area manager for NHS Property Services, which is now responsible for the redevelopment.
He said NHS Property Services was committed to the project and its board was due to sign off the approved business case, probably in February or March.
“In terms of a timetable, I can’t give you a definitive date,” said Mr Caldwell. “We have said spring 2014, which depends on a lot of things, including weather. When we have the plans signed we will have time to make arrangements with developers, which could take anything from a few days to a few weeks.
“When they are on side the build is expected to take 18 months which will see the new building go up before the old one is demolished.
“We are trying to making sure we get as much documentation sorted before the Christmas break so that in the New Year we can start the final approval process.
“We appreciate we haven’t kept stakeholders involved, this group being one of many organisations with an interest.We will have monthly updates from now on so that we won’t have this unhelpful silence like in the last few months.
“To reassure the whole group, we have confidence we are close. We have one or two regular meetings a week. That’s how fast this thing is moving now.”
Former Henley mayor Dave Smewing said: “You told us in November that the finances would be met by Christmas and you have just told us February or March. I want to know which board meeting these papers are going to because financial closure has slipped by three months.
“You need to take this message back: Henley is like a nuclear reactor and we are close to critical. Henley is dangerous.”
Town councillor Ian Reissman, who chairs the steering group, said: “If it was nearly ready to be signed in June why several months on is it still several months away?
“We received assurances in the spring — were they real or did they have no meaning? How can we be certain that what you say tonight is real?
“We want to see the project succeed and we will do anything we can to make that happen but we need confidence that there’s a plan and it will succeed.”
Mr Caldwell said he understood people’s frustrations.He added: “We want your patience, understanding and communication because it will all come good and we want an enduring relationship from thereon after.”
Henley MP John Howell said he had been assured that NHS Property Services fully backed the project by James Wakeham, regional director for the South.
He said: “This is a very complex project with many elements and it’s not surprising that there are difficulties. I’ve received commitment from the regional director. I’m going to hold his feet to the fire to deliver that — as many phone calls and meetings as it takes.”
The new hospital, which was originally expected to be completed in 2011, will have 18 beds, a 64-bed care home and include the Sue Ryder hospice, which is due to move from Nettlebed in 2015.
The next meeting of the group will be on January 15. A sub-group of Peter Ashby, Mr Smewing, Cllr Reissman, Dr Wood and Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak will now meet regularly with Mr Caldwell.