THE start of work on the new Forest hospital was marked with a traditional ‘ground breaking’ ceremony.

The two-storey hospital will house a 24-bed in-patient unit alongside provision for dental, X-ray, physiotherapy and endoscopy services, among others.

It will replace the Dilke and Lydney Hospitals after campaigns to retain them were unsuccessful.

The ground-breaking ceremony was performed by Ingrid Baker, Chair of the Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust (GHC) which is behind the new hospital in Steam Mills Road.

She said: “I’m always conscious that a huge number of people have been involved in the development of this hospital, both within the NHS and in the Forest of Dean community.

“We’re thankful for everyone who has played a part to get us to this point, as well as those whose contribution lies ahead.”

Paul Roberts, chief executive of GHC, said: “I’m excited to mark the start of the construction of a new community hospital for the Forest of Dean.

“It’s been an extremely challenging couple of years for colleagues in the NHS so it’s fantastic that we are returning to important work like planning and building this hospital, which will be an enormous asset for the area.”

The hospital is being built on behalf of the trust by construction contractor Speller Metcalfe.

It is being built to the sustainable BREEAM ‘Excellent’ standard, with a range of measures in place to lower environmental impact and improve energy efficiency.

These include protecting and increasing the existing habitat and hedgerow by planting more than 100 new native trees, extending the dormouse habitat and using ecologically-friendly lighting at the hospital entrance to avoid disrupting the existing bat flight path.

Adrian Speller, technical director at Speller Metcalfe, said: “To tie in with the NHS’ 74 years of remarkable service is a fantastic way to mark the start of the new community hospital in Cinderford.

‘‘The scheme will not only provide residents from across the Forest of Dean with better access to medical facilities, but will in some cases enhance the local ecology of the surrounding environment.”

Inside the hospital, air source heat pumps will be installed, to heat the building instead of a traditional gas supply, helping to lower energy bills.

As well as timber, cladding on the building will incorporate green and grey highlights to blend in with the forest background. It will also be situated lower into the ground, reducing the height of the hospital to help immerse it into the surrounding environment.

The building contractor is also working closely with the local community, integrating them into the project wherever possible.

This includes using the scheme as a learning opportunity for construction students at Gloucestershire College and taking part in local calendar highlights such as the recent Cinderford scarecrow trail.

The hospital is expected to be completed by early 2024.