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New £8.7m Townlands finally set to go-ahead
Published 03/02/14

THE redevelopment of Townlands Hospital in Henley should be confirmed tomorrow (Saturday).

NHS Property Services set a target date of February 1 to have ironed out any remaining issues with the business plan before signing a contract with the developer Amber Solutions for Care as well as key shareholders Oxfordshire County Council and Sue Ryder.

Separate agreements need to be reached with Royal Berkshire Hospital and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group for providing services at the new hospital.

It means that building work on the new the £8.7 million health campus can begin the late spring.

The project has been delayed nine times and was originally meant to be completed three years ago.

James Wakeham, south regional manager of NHS Property Services, said the contracts should be signed before the company’s next board meeting on March 13.

Speaking at a meeting of the Townlands Steering Group, he said: “February 1 is the target date we have and that’s how we are moving this project along.

“They key is the clinical commissioning group — we rely heavily on them because they are funding the services that are going in there. I met with them and they are now fully aware of the scheme and making sure they do their bit in time, so there are no obstacles at this moment in time. We are having weekly meetings with the key people involved and the next board meeting will be the final sign-off.”

The new hospital will include a 64-bed care home to replace Chilterns End and a Sue Ryder hospice, which will move from Nettlebed.

Earlier this month, the Henley Standard reported that the project could face another delay over worries that a £2 million VAT bill could be added to the cost of the development and five other outstanding issues.

However, Harold Caldwell, interim area manager of NHS Property Services, told the meeting: “The VAT is not a problem. These are just challenges that you get in project plans. We are using public money so we need to make sure that when building starts it’s up to modern standards.”

Ian Reissmann, chairman of the steering group, said he was confident the project would now go ahead but he wouldn’t relax until the contacts had been signed.

He said: “It looks pretty good. We can’t predict the unexpected but it’s all on track and we’ve seen nothing to suggest it won’t happen.We are reassured by NHS Property Services but we will continue to talk them to make sure everything goes ahead smoothly.”

Henley MP John Howell said: “It’s very good news that the end looks to be in sight and Henley will be getting the hospital and healthcare it deserves.

“There’s a lot to look forward to on this and we have just got to make sure NHS Property Services stick to the agreement but I’m not anticipating anything going wrong.”

Published 03/02/14

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