An outline planning application to redevelop Watford General Hospital has obtained unanimous approval from local councillors.
The submitted proposal involves the construction of a new hospital at the Vicarage Road site.
On Tuesday (27 July), Watford Borough Council’s Development Management Committee granted permission for three clinical buildings, that could possibly be 17-storeys high.
The new blocks near Thomas Sawyer Way will house an expanded emergency department, inpatient wards, operating theatres, women and children's services as well as an energy centre.
The application also included the demolition of existing hospital buildings and significant landscape improvements.
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) is one of eight ‘front runners’ in the government’s New Hospital Programme – a national scheme committed to building 40 hospitals across England by 2030.
In 2019, it was announced WHHT would receive government funding to redevelop buildings and facilities across its three hospital sites (Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead).
Spring has sprung! Footage showing our marvellous new hospital buildings rising up from the ground at Watford General Hospital (illustration only final designs & £ tbc) https://t.co/I8GOuzisoG Share your views: https://t.co/y37fW8u6BH #OurNHSBuildings pic.twitter.com/FspIe8ZN5m— West Herts Hospitals (@WestHertsNHS) March 22, 2021
Illustration of the potential reconstruction of Watford General. Credit: West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust on Twitter/BDP.
Earlier this year, the NHS trust released plans after confirming the preferred option for Watford was to rebuild the hospital.
WHHT is in the process of finalising its outline business case before receiving final funding for the project – which could cost over £540 million.
The proposed changes to the trust’s estate is for all three hospital sites to have a clearly defined role. Emergency, inpatient and complex care is to remain at Watford General.
Hemel Hempstead Hospital will become the centre for planned medical care and long term conditions, with St Albans City Hospital focusing on planned surgery and cancer care.
WHHT believe retaining the current three site configuration will “provide the quickest route to new buildings” as well as “a good future service model”.
Furthermore, each hospital would have “its own unique purpose to support patient care”.
Acute Redevelopment Programme Director for WHHT, Duane Passman, commented: “We are delighted to have moved another step closer to providing better hospital buildings for our patients across West Herts.
“We still have a lot of work ahead of us to develop our outline business case and secure the level of funding needed, but the support of the local authority is a massive boost.”
Yet campaigners are continuing to lobby for a new A&E hospital on a clean site.
In response to the approval of the outline planning application for Watford General, a representative from the New Hospital Campaign told Vibe 107.6 FM “this is the wrong scheme in the wrong place”.
They added the new development would be the “tallest NHS building outside London, in a densely populated suburban town”.
The New Hospital Campaign representative continued:
“We need a new hospital on a clean new site, easily accessible by people from all over West Herts.
“It should have medium-rise buildings that will be better for patients, and cheaper and quicker to build than these."
Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor, said he was “delighted that the new hospital” for which “we have lobbied strongly to remain in our town, is now becoming a reality”.
He stated Watford General was “now on the way to having state of the art facilities” for patients and NHS workers.
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and its developers must acquire further approval on any final designs, before building work can begin at the Watford site.
The new hospital is going to sit within Watford Riverwell – a major regeneration project offering green spaces and shops.
£1 million will be set aside to upgrade access to the new hospital, with cycling and pedestrian routes.
The money will also go towards improvements on Thomas Sawyer Way and new bus routes.
Outline planning applications for Hemel Hempstead and St Albans City hospitals are to be submitted later this summer.
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