Now it's bats holding up hospital plans

The stop-start saga of Cromer's hospital rebuild has hit another hurdle - in the shape of bat droppings.After many rollercoaster years of high hopes, false dawns, funding problems and a huge cash gift, plans are in the pipeline for a �26m scheme.

THE stop-start saga of Cromer's hospital rebuild has hit another hurdle - in the shape of bat droppings.

After many rollercoaster years of high hopes, false dawns, funding problems and a huge cash gift, plans are in the pipeline for a �26m scheme.

But an ecological survey of the site has discovered bat deposits in the roof of the Davison day procedure unit.

Officials now face having to do a bat survey - which means waiting until they wake up from hibernation in the spring.


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If the creatures are present, there could

be a further hitch while the authorities get

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a licence to work around the protected

species - which could involve providing replacement habitat in the complex or building bat boxes.

North Norfolk has waited years for a viable health scheme at Cromer, with countless

twists and turns along the way of a saga which has frustrated local folk and health officials alike.

Earlier delays included problems with funding, finding the right site, deciding the appropriate mix of services, a reorganisation of health authorities and a bid to get parts of the current site, dating back to the 1930s, listed for their architectural merit.

But armed with an �11m legacy from local millionaires Sagle Bernstein and new-found financing powers as a foundation trust, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which runs Cromer as a satellite, is pressing ahead with a rebuild on the current Mill Road site.

Plans have been lodged with North Norfolk District Council and it was hoped to start work this summer - until the bat droppings were found.

Hospital spokesman Andrew Stronach said a full survey could not be carried out until the bats emerged from hibernation in April or May, and any licensing required could take up to six weeks, so a delay looked likely. which was regrettable.

Council landscape officer Simon Case said the survey would reveal what type of bat was present, probably a common pipistrelle -

rather than the rare barbastelle, whose presence at Paston Barn has prevented public use after a major restoration of the historic building. It would also reveal if it was an overwintering roost, a maternity use for rearing young, or an occasional roost, where bats stopped overnight for a bit of bed and breakfast.

The outcome would determine what measures were needed. which could include providing bat boxes or adding bat space in to the new building.

He added that it was "very very rare" for a project to be completely stopped by bats, and

he authorities were geared up to make the licensing as speedy as possible.

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