Dismay over hospital plans approval

By Carmelo Garcia   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Thursday 10th March 2022 2:33 pm
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An artist’s impression of the planned new hospital in Cinderford
An artist’s impression of the planned new hospital in Cinderford (Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust )

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The decision to approve plans for a new Forest of Dean hospital will “go down as one of the greatest travesties in the history of the district council” as it will lead to the closure of two other local historic hospitals.

This is the view from councillor Thom Forester (Independent Alliance, Mitcheldean, Ruardean & Drybrook) who was among the councillors who expressed dismay at Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust’s plans to build a new 24-bed community on Steam Mills Road in Cinderford.

He said councillors were in effect voting to halve the number of hospital beds in the district as the Dilke Memorial Hospital and Lydney and District Community Hospital will be closed as a result.

Cllr Forester also went on to say the plans were extremely shortsighted and asked why brownfield sites had not been chosen.

“The NHS trust and various other bodies have railroaded this application with the help of the acquiescence from Cinderford Town Council,” he said during the planning committee meeting.

“It will go down as one of the greatest travesties in the history of this council. It is shortsighted and this whole affair has made a complete mockery out of the democratic process.

“It will lead to a loss of important recreation facilities and a green space in the centre of Cinderford. Not just that but the loss of a site of strategic significance both to food security and the wellbeing of Forest residents.

“The site is the former allotments that used to service Cinderford and we are doing this at a time when wheat and other commodities have hit record highs and countries are imposing caps and even full bans on the exportation of phosphorus and other fertilisers.

“We are entering a time when the allotments and services like that are going to be more important than at any other time since World War 2.

“Why didn’t a brownfield site come forward?”

He also said it would contribute to increased traffic on Steam Mills School and the High Street.

Cllr James Bevan (Independent Alliance, Lydney East)

said the scheme’s approval would lead to the loss of his local hospital in Lydney and the one he was born in, the Dilke.

“I will abstain from this vote. I think the concept is totally wrong.”

And Cllr Simon Phelps (Independent, Westbury-on-Severn) said he would support the proposals with a measure of reluctance.

He said he was dismayed the hospital would only have a life expectancy of 70 years.

“I’m also concerned that with the growing population within the Forest, how long is it going to be of a sufficient size to cater for the population?”

Pete Stockall, speaking on behalf of the NHS, said the decision today represents a key milestone in a long journey to deliver a critical piece of health infrastructure for the Forest of Dean community.

“Since the 2018 Citizens Jury, through which Cinderford was chosen as the preferred location for the facility, the team has worked proactively with planning officers and stakeholders to develop a scheme that successfully addresses all material planning considerations and policy requirements.

“The proposals will deliver significant health, social, economic benefits, providing a wide range of services and bed spaces in fit-for-purpose accommodation that can meet modern-day healthcare needs.”

Cllr Brian Lewis (Conservative, Hartpury & Redmarley) proposed approving the scheme and this was supported by Cllr Maria Edwards (Independent, Tidenham).

Cllr Lewis said: “I would like to give this committee the opportunity to vote with their conscience and move for the officer’s recommendation.”

The scheme was approved by seven votes in favour, two against and one abstention.

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