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Hospital design too clinical, say planners

PUBLISHED: 15:18 18 March 2009 | UPDATED: 09:32 13 July 2010

Designs for a new Cromer hospital are too clinical say planners who are asking health chiefs to go back to the drawing board.

But hospital officials say that while there was scope to “tweak” the plans a total rethink was out of the question - and that any deferral would be both frustrating and likely to delay the £26m project.

Designs for a new Cromer hospital are too clinical say planners who are asking health chiefs to go back to the drawing board.

But hospital officials say that while there was scope to “tweak” the plans a total rethink was out of the question - and that any deferral would be both frustrating and likely to delay the £26m project.

It is the latest setback in the long-running saga of the hospital, which has been earmarked for a rebuild for more than a decade and due to have building work start this May.

And it follows the other recent hiccup caused by the discovery of bat droppings in a roof space at the existing unit - which means a thorough survey of the protected species roosting spots needs to be done, once they wake from their winter hibernation.

Now, as the detailed plans are poised to go before a North Norfolk District Council development committee, a report has criticised the bland and functional design.

It blames a decision to rebuild around a temporary kidney dialysis unit in the middle of the site, and the need to ensure the hospital can carry on functioning during the construction work.

Council conservation design and landscape manager Phil Godwin says the functionalist approach and need to deliver a “clinically correct” pattern of health services had severely curtailed the architect's scope for quality design - leading to a disappointing plan for a landmark building.

There was also an “unhealthy fixation” to provide an excess of parking at a time when there was a push for more sustainable transport options.

He also says it is a pity the distinctive existing Dutch gable entrance could not be incorporated in the redevelopment, rather than just the “token” re-use of the stone name plate - and calls for a rethink.

The report to councillors also highlights four letters of objection raising concerns including the scale and impact on the area - and “serious misgivings” that the positioning of the hospital which means it is just 20m from the rear windows of some nearby bungalows.

There are also calls to revise the planned parking spaces for 123 cars, 44 bicycles and six motorbikes - compared to the current 82.

The east area planning committee on Thursday will be asked to defer the scheme for a fresh look at the design, layout, retention of the renal unit, and doing more bat surveys.

Hospital spokesman Andrew Stronach said the design was functional because it was a functional building. They did not include the kidney unit into the main scheme, because it was part of dialysis services run by regional health chiefs, and needed to be flexible for any future reviews.

Officials would take on board committee views, but any deferral would be “frustrating” and likely to put back the planned opening date of summer 2011.

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