Sunday, 01 August 2021

Second planning probe at hospital

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

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

South Oxfordshire District Council has responded to a complaint concerning the care home being built at the new £16 million “health campus” in York Road, Henley.

It comes two weeks after the Henley Standard revealed that the planning authority had launched a probe into claims the new three-storey hospital has been built higher than was agreed when planning permission was granted in 2012.

A second official has been asked to investigate the latest complaint concerning the 64-bed care home to be run by the Orders of St John Care Trust. Tim Plant, client development manager for the trust, said: “We are aware of this complaint. The contractor is in dialogue with the planning officer and is confident that the care home building is being constructed as per the approved planning drawings.”

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 official conducting the first investigation has visited the site and the council says his work is “ongoing”.

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

A council spokesman said: “We are still carrying out investigations. To date we haven’t found any breaches of planning control.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Property Services said: “We are pleased the council has indicated that construction work at the new Townlands Hospital is proceeding in accordance with planning control.

“We understand it is in the early stages of responding to a second enquiry. Work at the site is continuing as normal.”

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

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

Meanwhile, an exhibition about the project will be held at the hospital on Tuesday.

Amber Solutions for Care will host the exhibition in the Maurice Tate Room from 2pm to 8.30pm.

Designs for the new building will be on show and company representatives will be on hand to answer questions.

Mike Leto, project director, said: “We are in the process of making some enhancements to the assisted housing scheme and, as part of the planning process, we felt it was appropriate to let the community know what the proposed changes are.

“The existing planning consent is for two blocks at the care home, which we are proposing to amalgamate into one.

“We have looked at the scheme again and thought how we can further improve it.

“We have also reflected on car parking arrangements and the location has been moved so residents don’t have so far to walk.

“We have some drawings and chances for people to investigate. It’s about giving them a chance to look themselves.”

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