Cromer hospital design dilemma

Richard BatsonPlanning officials and health chiefs are split over whether Cromer's long-awaited hospital should be a landmark or functional building.The �26m project was already resigned to a delay because a bat survey needs to be carried out on the site this summer after the discovery of droppings from the protected species in the existing roof.Richard Batson

Planning officials and health chiefs are split over whether Cromer's long-awaited hospital should be a landmark or functional building.

The �26m project was already resigned to a delay because a bat survey needs to be carried out on the site this summer after the discovery of droppings from the protected species in the existing roof.

But it could be held up even more after plans were deferred because of concerns about the design and positioning of the building.

It was a move which angered local councillors and hospital bosses keen for the long-running saga to progress quickly.


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The aim is to build the new hospital on the current Mill Road site dating back to the 1930s, with an expanded range of services and extra car parking.

Planning officer Paul Took told North Norfolk District Council's east area development committee there needed to be a balance between being a hospital and the need for a landmark building, while there were also constraints caused by keeping the hospital operating during construction.

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But there were concerns the design was not the 'celebration' that the NHS's own review panel hoped for, and that an important building was being worked around a temporary renal unit, pushing it close to housing in one corner.

Planning manager John Williams said it was a dilemma because the hospital was a vital service which needed to be fit for the 21st century, but the council was trying to ensure it was also a development to be admired rather than surrounded by misgivings.

Project director Melissa Blakeley said the design was aimed at provide as much clinical care as they could from the �11m and �1m legacies of Sagle Bernstein and Phyllis Cox and they could not 'put endless money into producing a significant landmark.'

Conservation and design manager Phil Godwin said he was distressed to hear they were not trying for a landmark and attacked the use of some parts of the old building, such as the stone name slabs, as 'tokenism.'

Cromer councillors John Lee, Nigel Ripley and Benji Cabbell Manners all called for an instant approval of the project because of the previous delays, but were warned by officers that could not happen because of the need for the bat survey.

After the deferral for design negotiations was agreed, hospital spokesman Andrew Stronach said he would 'have to agree to differ' over the calls for a landmark building. They made no apologies for designing a functional hospital paid for by legacies and taxpayers' money.

Ms Blakeney added they were 'incredibly disappointed' over the design delays. The longer term future of the renal unit, also paid for by the Bernstein bequest, was subject to a regional review of dialysis services, but could not be easily moved on the site.

At the end of the debate committee chairman Kath Wilkins also voiced surprise that it was the first major planning application where she had not had any feedback from supporters or opponents, adding 'the silence of the community is disappointing.'

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