Thursday, 05 August 2021

Long-awaited start of new £8.7m hospital

CONSTRUCTION of the new Townlands Hospital in Henley will begin next month.

CONSTRUCTION of the new Townlands Hospital in Henley will begin next month.

Work on the £8.7 million health campus is scheduled to take place at the end of October after the final contracts are signed off. Construction will take about two years to complete.

The project was due to begin this month but was delayed for a seventh time, which has meant the start date has slipped back by more than three years from the original one.

NHS England Thames Valley has been 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.

Ian Reissmann, a town councillor who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, says it is important that all issues are resolved before developer Amber Solutions for Care can start work.

He said: “I am delighted that the project continues on track, although we are continuing to monitor the delays as the final paperwork is carried out so the project can start at the end of October.

“I am as keen as anyone to see these signed off but we do want to make sure everything is correctly done so there are no snags later on in the project.”

Councillor Reissmann said that having waited 30 years for a new hospital, residents just need to be patient for a few more weeks.

He said: “It still seems hard to believe that we are going get our new hospital started soon and that it will open in 2015 but I am confident that the deal will get signed off.

“We are on the verge of one last key event in the long story of Townlands Hospital. It will be a big moment for Henley and the area and one which everyone who depends on Townlands can share as supporters of the long campaign for our new hospital.”

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 £7 million 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.

Last month, the Henley Standard revealed that construction had been postponed again.

Project director Riana Relihan refused to reveal the reason for the delay but insisted it was close to being resolved.

More News:

POLL: Have your say