The £450m proposals for the redevelopment of the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Eastern Road go to the planning committee on Friday. With officers recommending approval let’s hope that the committee don’t reject a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The application is controversial because many people feel that the hemmed-in location is not the right place to have a hospital in the first place and the addition of a new, state-of-the-art trauma centre, a 12 storey tower for new wards, increased parking and a helipad will make a bad situation worse.
There is no doubt that if Charles Barry had known how the city would develop when he designed the original hospital [still called the Barry Building] in 1826 he might have thought twice about the location but he didn’t and we are stuck with it. The opportunity to redevelop it will only be offered once and if the Committee reject the proposals on Friday the money ear-marked for the 10 year construction project from the Department of Health will simply be spent elsewhere in the UK.
Although there is an amount of opposition, the pros far outweigh the cons. The existing Barry Building will be demolished; although English Heritage support the decision, there is considerable local pressure to preserve the facade but this has been rejected by the developers. This would pave the way for a wholesale replacement of the existing hospital, which no longer meets the needs of modern medical care, with a new teaching, trauma and tertiary care centre for the entire region.
Underground parking would provide spaces for 820 vehicles although the NHS Trust has promised to reduce car use by staff and visitors by 5% over five years. Bikes are expected to figure prominently in the transport plan and the scheme includes 473 bike spaces with over a quarter of them at the main entrance.
The helipad is one of the more controversial elements with residents understandably concerned about the noise. The pad will be limited for use only by the air ambulance, Sussex Police and the Coastguard and the Trust estimates that there will be just over 1 flight per week and that arrival and departure will take no more than 6 minutes. The helipad is essential for plans to make the Royal Sussex a major trauma centre and the transfer of neurosurgery from Haywards Heath.
The boost to the local economy will be substantial with 480 construction jobs spread over the development period and 450 [fte] additional NHS staff once the new hospital is complete. By the time indirect employment and supply chain opportunities are added, the contribution to the Brighton & Hove economy will run into £millions per annum and this certainly represents one of the largest development opportunities in the past 30 years.
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Royal Sussex County Hospital