Sunday, 01 August 2021

New Hospital ‘built too tall’

AN investigation has been launched into claims that the Townlands Hospital redevelopment is in breach of

AN investigation has been launched into claims that the Townlands Hospital redevelopment is in breach of planning rules.

It’s believed that a member of the public has complained the new three-story building is taller than the height agreed when planning permission was granted for the new £16million “health campus” off York Road, Henley.

The hospital, which is due to be completed in November, is being built by Vinci Construction on behalf of Amber Infrastructure, which is responsible for the redevelopment. The site is owned by NHS Property Services, a government company.

The original plans said the maximum height of the new hospital would be 16m at the front and 11m at the back and the main part of the building would be 13.5m high.

The investigation is being carried out by South Oxfordshire District Council, which granted planning permission in November 2012.

A council spokesman said: “We received an enquiry about an aspect of the building work and will be investigating in accordance with our normal procedures to see if there has been a breach of planning regulations.”

He said the probe would be carried out by case officer Robert Raysford. It will focus on whether the building has been built in accordance with the original plans in terms of “height and additional structure”.

The complainant has not been identified but the council says most enforcement investigations are prompted by reports from members of the public, parish councils or other organisations.

Before planning permission was granted, people living near the hospital complained about the proposed height of the building.

A petition opposed to the plans was signed by more than 100 people and was submitted to the council’s planning committee.

Patricia Campbell, who lives in York Road and was one of the complainants, said the new building seemed even more overbearing than she had feared.

The 87-year-old said: “It’s overwhelmingly high and really is terrible. It’s on top of us all here.

“I fought long and hard for this hospital not to be where it is because it’s totally out of keeping with the environment and the conservation area.

“Obviously it went ahead and I was very, very surprised how near the top of the road it was because if you look back at any of the plans and drawings showing how it was going to be, it was rather laid back.

“It really is an eyesore and it shouldn’t be there, I think. It does seem to me not as it was envisaged.”

Sarah Amin, 41, who lives next door to the hospital, said: “I’ve got concerns about the height. I suppose most people along this road would feel the same.

“We do need the hospital but being a resident so close to it, my concern is its size and what it’s going to mean for the traffic.”

Ronald Hughey, 84, said he felt the building was too tall, adding: “It should have been lower and spread across more land.”

Martin Dawes, 64, said there would air conditioning units and lift mechanisms on the roof.

“The amount of stuff they are putting on the roof seems quite substantial,” he said.

“If it started blocking the light out from my garden I’d be a bit annoyed but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

It is still not known what services will be provided in the top floor of the hospital after Sue Ryder pulled out of a deal in December to relocate its hospice from Nettlebed.

Heidi Travis, chief executive of Sue Ryder, said the decision was based on a number of factors, including concern that moving to a 12-bed facility at Townlands would break up the various hospice services.

Last week the Henley Standard revealed that doctors in Henley had approached health chiefs about moving the town’s Bell and Hart surgeries to the new site saying it could provided a “solution” to the second floor.

An NHS Property Services spokesman said: “We understand South Oxfordshire District Council is in the early stages of responding to an enquiry. Work at the site is continuing as normal.”

A spokesman for Amber Infrastructure said: “The re-development of Townlands Hospital is progressing in line with planning permission granted by the South Oxfordshire District Council.”

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