Council moves to protect site of Hartlepool’s hospital

The University Hospital of Hartlepool.
The University Hospital of Hartlepool.
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COUNCILLORS have moved to protect the site of Hartlepool’s hospital by ensuring it can only be used for health-related activities.

They have instructed council planners to make the retention of land at the University Hospital of Hartlepool for hospital and health-related use a “clear policy and priority” of the new Local Plan.

It is important that we bring back democratic accountability to local authorities and break the culture of hospital trusts centralising services

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher

A motion tabled by council leader, Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, was agreed unanimously at a full meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council.

It was held ahead of a meeting in London between a delegation from the town and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt tomorrow that will discuss the transfer of hospital services from Hartlepool to the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

The motion comes after the council last year approved an outline planning application for 100 homes on a section of land on the edge of the site, but it is not believed it will affect the land where the hospital stands being designated for health use only.

Hospital bosses say they are willing to work with the council and local residents on providing services “locally” and added that the hospital site is large and said it may be better to build homes on part of it and plough the proceeds into developing healthcare.

Coun Akers-Belcher said: “It is important that we bring back democratic accountability to local authorities and break the culture of hospital trusts centralising services.

“That is why as part of the development of the Hartlepool Local Plan we are calling on council officers to identify – in conformity with the National Planning Policy Framework – strategic policies for the provision of health and other infrastructure, with a clear policy and priority to safeguard the existing University Hospital of Hartlepool site for hospital and health-related use.”

The production of the new Local Plan is nearing the end of an evidence-gathering phase and work is due to start soon on drawing up a draft plan which will then be subject to public consultation.

It comes after the council scrapped plans for a gypsy and traveller site in its new draft Local Plan.

Coun Akers-Belcher added: “We have already seen how the production of a new Local Plan has enabled us to reassess gypsy and traveller needs, with the result that we won’t be identifying a site within the borough.

“However, there are other opportunities that we must now seize, including addressing the huge public concern that exists around the transfer of hospital services from the town to Stockton.”

He said the National Planning Policy Framework – upon which the council must rely when preparing the Local Plan – states that regard should be given to the “provision of health, security, community and cultural infrastructure and other local facilities.”

A spokeswoman of the hospital trust said: “Services have been centralised following a number of external reviews from medical experts and advice from our own doctors whose responsibility it is to continually improve the safety and quality of the services they provide.

“By far the majority of health services are already provided outside hospital and that trend is likely to continue in the future.

“The recently published Five Year Forward View and a number of other policy documents talk about the need to prevent illness and intervene early when people do have health issues, for example to take up offers of NHS health screening.

“We want to see these types of services continue to rise in Hartlepool and we are more than willing to discuss with the council and local residents how we can continue to provide as many of these services as possible locally to improve the health of the people of Hartlepool.

“The land on the University Hospital of Hartlepool site is a considerable size. It housed a number of other buildings including the old surgical block which was demolished about 10 years ago.

“It may be better to build homes for local people on part of the site and plough the proceeds of a land sale into developing healthcare.”