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Go-ahead for hospital plans

Plans for a much-delayed multi-million pound hospital redevelopment scheme in Wolverhampton look set to be approved this week, six months after the scheme was sent back to the drawing board.

Wolverhampton City Council’s planning committee was due to run the rule over plans for the regeneration of the city’s New Cross Hospital on Tuesday, having already received a recommendation for approval from the authority’s planning department.

If given the Ok it will be a reversal of fortune for the scheme, which was withdrawn from a previous planning committee in January after a punishing planning inspector’s report said the project was “ill thought out and totally unacceptable”.

Concern had been raised about the lack of consideration given to public transport for the hospital and the amount of the current hospital site that would be handed over to house builders to help fund the scheme.

But the new report says the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust has done enough to allay these fears, with planners saying the loss to the hospital of future development land to housing is outweighed by the benefits of the new hospital itself.

The trust is also understood to be in talks with West Midlands transport body Centro about the possibility of the hospital being served by an extension of the Midlands Metro light rail service.

When it was first proposed way back in 2001, it was anticipated the scheme would be delivered under the Private Finance Initiative.

But it is now thought that, with the Treasury looking again at the criteria it uses to approve PFI funding, the scheme will be delivered in phases on a more traditional basis.

The first phase, to build a £6 million catering facility and £15 million integrated pathology centre, is expected to go to the market towards the end of the year, along with a £60 million emergency portal.

Later phases will involve construction of new inpatient beds, an ambulatory care centre and a women and children’s unit, with the overall value of the redevelopment expected to be in the hundreds of millions of pounds.

The trust’s director of estates development Gary Penn said: “By phasing the scheme we have given ourselves a framework for development into the future that provides flexibility.”

Trust drops JV development idea

Plans by a Berkshire hospital trust to form a joint venture with a developer to push forward with its rebuilding plans, after fears the scheme would be unaffordable under a previously proposed Private Finance Initiative model, have been dropped.

In February Heatherwood & Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust advertised for a development partner to help it modernise Heatherwood hospital while helping it extend the clinical services it provides.

A shortlist of up to three bidders had been due to be drawn up in the spring but sources at the trust this week said that it had decided not to proceed with the competition