Frustrations voiced as housing agreed at hospital site

The Harness Block at Southlands Hospital S33951H14
The Harness Block at Southlands Hospital S33951H14

COUNCILLORS voiced disbelief at the loss of the main part of Southlands Hospital before granting outline planning permission for development.

Campaigners called for at least part of the development site to be saved for community beds and councillors voiced their equal frustration at Adur District Council’s planning committee on Monday.

Beeding House is now listed for demolition, along with other buildings S33953H14

Beeding House is now listed for demolition, along with other buildings S33953H14

But outline permission was granted for housing on the whole 2.19-hectare site, including the Harness Block and Beeding House. Four councillors voted to approve the application, two voted against and one abstained.

It means Western Sussex Hospital NHS Foundation Trust can now maximise profits from the sale of the land and plough the money back into what remains of Southlands Hospital.

James Appleton, the council’s head of planning, said: “The justification for the development and disposal of the site is to secure the capital investment and invest the profits to retain the hospital building on the east of the site.”

Outline permission was granted for up to 106 properties, a lower density than at the adjacent development, Orchard Gate.

Vice-chairman Peter Metcalfe said: “I find myself between a rock and a hard place. They say this is surplus to requirements. I don’t understand how this building cannot be put into use for the NHS by the NHS.

“In principle, I am against it but it is not for us to take this into consideration. We just wanted to air our frustration at the whole situation.”

Councillor David Donaldson added: “For me, this is a moral issue, not a planning issue. I am dead against this as a matter of principle.”

Geoff Patmore, who voted against the development, said: “We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If we don’t vote for it, they are going to get rid of it anyway.”

But chairman Brian Boggis pointed out: “The decision about what is required to run a good health service is not for us to make. Selling it or not selling it is not for us to decide.”

Barbara Porter, public governor for Adur on the trust board, spoke as a resident and patient. She raised concerns about the access road, which would be shared with Northbourne Medical Centre.

“The existing on-site parking there is already proving inadequate,” she said. “Parking facilities on the main road in the vicinity are at a premium.”

Carl Walker said people wanted the space to be used for clinical and community services.

“I believe that this planning application is not representing the local people of Shoreham and beyond.

“It is actually thoughtless, senseless and irresponsible if you allow extra strain to be placed on a health infrastructure that is already heaving and falling to pieces.”

He said A&E departments were under huge strain and elderly people were staying in hospital longer than they needed to across the trust.

Heather Duffield said Keep Southlands Hospital members cared about what happened there.

“It has been a controversial decision for many of the concerned residents of Adur. The closure of the Harness Block and eventual demolition could have gone through alternative processes, which could have, we believe, saved it.

“The general concern is what is happening and what might well happen in this part, we will not have any hospital services left. We do need to have reasonable provision for the people who live here.”

Liza McKinney said: “Worthing Hospital has not got elastic walls.”

Marianne Griffiths, trust chief executive, said a service redesign for quality had been carried out several years ago and Southlands had been found to be unsafe.

The trust had written to many providers to offer them the Harness Block for community beds but after 18 months of trying, this was refused.

The vision for Southlands was for it to be a really vibrant ambulatory care centre for the people of Adur and the surrounding areas. In addition, ophthalmology services would be centralised there in a state-of-the-art centre.

“The benefits are enormous. It really will improve the quality and experience of care for our patients coming to the site and I think that is absolutely essential,” she said.

“We are absolutely committed to investing all of the proceeds from the sale of the Harness Block, in actual fact significantly topping that up. The reprovision of the service is likely to be in the region of £6½million, a significant investment in Southlands.”

The tender is due out in June and it is hoped the new service will be opened in June 2016.

Speaking after the meeting, campaigner Steve Guy said: “As far as the Save Southlands group is concerned, Marianne Griffiths of Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has drawn up the death warrant and on Monday night, the planning committee signed it. But we will continue to campaign for a reprieve.”