Controversial health centre extension backed by councillors

COUNCILLORS cast aside a protesters’ pleas to protect Royston Hospital as they backed a �1m extension to Royston Health Centre.

Royston Town Council supported NHS Hertfordshire’s plans to install prefab units on top of the Melbourn Street building that will permanently host outpatient clinics displaced by the redevelopment of Royston Hospital.

Originally the extension was mooted as a temporary measure which has led campaigners to suspect foul play.

Chris Cowsley, chairman of the Royston Hospital Action Group, told members: “On

first inspection this is not the development the PCT consulted on.

“Their Conversation Cafe was about interim arrangements for physiotherapy, clinics and the various other activities currently ongoing at the hospital.

“It is a plan for the growing town of Royston to have clinical delivery services currently offered at the hospital shoe-horned into less than half their current space.

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“As an interim measure the internal changes to the existing building would be ridiculously expensive. As a permanent measure they render the building unfit for purpose.

“I ask in your deliberations you give consideration to the way in which this whole project has been carried forward – from a sham public consultation on interim measures to a specific plan for a totally unacceptable permanent degradation of Royston’s resources for the delivery of health care.”

Mr Cowsley’s group is fighting against an overhaul of intermediate care in the town, if all goes ahead the hospital will be turned into a care home operated in partnership with a private firm and Herts County Council.

Councillors praised Mr Cowsley’s “eloquent” speech but said they could not object to anything but planning concerns.

Cllr F John Smith said the planning control committee had to be “very careful” as Mr Cowsley’s concerns “are not matters relevant to the consideration of a planning application”.

“It is not the job of a planning committee to comment on how the health service conducts itself in Royston and how the various health authorities have conducted their various consultations,” he said

“Neither is it our job to decide whether or not the medical provision in the building are better, worse, or much the same as they have at present.”

He added: “Just because we don’t want the hospital to close doesn’t mean we can’t support it.”

Several councillors labelled the concrete building “ugly” but thought the extension would not cause any problems.

Cllr John Davison said: “It’s not a pretty building at the moment, it won’t be when it is finished but I believe it is functional. I believe we should have no objection.”

Only one councillor expressed concern at the plan and council leader Bob Smith’s motion to object to the PCT’s plan had no seconder.

He told the Crow he was “disappointed” with the outcome of Monday’s meeting.

The authority has asked North Herts District Council to call it in to ensure it is debated fairly.