Tuesday, 21 September 2021

All ready for new hospital

THE first spade should go into the ground for the redevelopment of Townlands Hospital in Henley this summer.

THE first spade should go into the ground for the redevelopment of Townlands Hospital in Henley this summer.

The new £8.7million “health campus” will then take about two years to complete.

The move follows a series of delays that have seen the start date slip back by more than three years.

Building should now start in July or August following an agreement between the Department of Health and insurance giant Aviva, which is underwriting the project with a £7million loan.

The company had feared its investment could be devalued by the abolition of primary care trusts and the transfer of the project to NHS Property Services as its loan would no longer be guaranteed by the Treasury.

The agreement means that contracts are likely to be signed in June after other outstanding “technical” issues are resolved. Developer Amber Solutions for Care will build an 18bed hospital, incorporating the new Sue Ryder hospice, which is moving from Nettlebed, a 64-bed care home to replace Chilterns End and 44 new “key worker” homes.

Project director Riana Relihan said: “The scheme is complex in that there are three developments on the site, all with different clients and funding arrangements and therefore also intricate technical areas in the construction programme.

“The team will be working closely with Amber Solutions for Care to finalise all the outstanding design and commercial information to enable us to sign the contracts. The aim is to achieve this by June.”

She said construction should begin within two months of the contracts being signed.

Henley MP John Howell, who had called on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene in the funding wrangle, said: “I am absolutely delighted that another obstacle has been cleared for the successful implementation of Townlands.

“I now look forward to it moving ahead quickly.”

Town councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, said the project should proceed more quickly following last week’s signing of contracts for a new hospital in Bicester, which was also overseen by the former Oxfordshire NHS Primary Care Trust.

“The two projects have been synchronised for some years,” he said. “There is no doubt that the Bicester news is a very good sign for Townlands. We have achieved everything we could have hoped for with the project. We must see it through.” Oxfordshire County Council has set aside almost £7.8million 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 was jeered at a public meeting when he 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.

The wrangle over the Aviva loan caused another delay of around six months.

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