THE plans for the new Townlands Hospital in Henley have still not been agreed.
NHS Property Services had said the final contracts for the £8.7 million “health campus” would be prepared by February 1, a process known as commercial closure.
However, the company’s interim boss Harold Caldwell revealed the deadline had been missed in a letter to Townlands Steering Group chairman and town councillor Ian Reissmann.
The project, which was originally supposed to be completed three years ago, has already been delayed nine times but Mr Caldwell said he was still confident the contracts would be signed off at an NHS Property Services board meeting on March 13.
This would mean building work on the hospital and 64-bed care home could get under way in the spring.
At a meeting of Henley Town Council on Tuesday, Cllr Reissmann read out the letter from Mr Caldwell, which said: “NHS Property Services is continuing to work closely with its partners to reach commercial closure.
“Good progress has been made since the last meeting but several issues still need to be resolved.”
Cllr Reissmann said: “What he is saying is that commercial closure was not achieved by the end of January but financial closure is still on course for the meeting on March 13.
“I’ve asked Mr Caldwell to come and meet the Townlands sub-group at our next meeting and I am awaiting his response.”
He confirmed that Henley MP John Howell had contacted NHS Property Services after promising residents to “hold feet to the fire” at a steering group meeting in November.
Cllr Reissmann said: “John has been assured that the contracts will be signed in two weeks.”
Town and county councillor David Nimmo Smith said Oxfordshire County Council was ready to sign the contracts and hoped to do so by the end of the month.
The hospital was most recently delayed in November as NHS Property Services needed more time to agree costs with contractors.
The company took over the project from NHS Oxfordshire in April after the abolition of primary care trusts.
The hospital was also delayed earlier in 2013 after Aviva stalled on releasing a £7 million loan towards the cost. In 2010 the project’s entire procurement plan had to be scrapped due to the risk of legal challenges.
When completed, the site will comprise an 18-bed hospital, a new Sue Ryder hospice, which will move from Nettlebed, as well as the care home to replace Chilterns End and 44 new homes for staff.
Cllr Reissmann has also suggested that the steering group nominates a member to join the county council’s health overview scrutiny committee, which is looking for three new members from April.
He said: “We understand the process and have a lot to offer. It would also help us stay informed and involved. I think Peter Ashby would be the best option to nominate as he is a lay member.”