The £420 million project to modernise Brighton and Hove’s biggest and busiest hospital will be funded directly by the government not by private finance.
Hospital chief Duncan Selbie gave the reassurance as it emerged that some hospitals and health trusts which had agreed “Private Finance Initiative” or PFI deals were now at financial risk.
The soaring cost of PFI repayments was highlighted by ministers as the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government tries to rein in public spending.
Mr Selbie said that the huge rebuilding project planned for the Royal Sussex County Hospital would be paid for “with real money”.
He said that it was the only large scheme of its kind due to be taxpayer funded because it was so important.
Every similar project in recent years has relied on private funding using the PFI scheme started by the Conservatives in the 1990s.
Although Labour criticised PFI deals in opposition, they used them in government to carry out a modernisation of Britain’s ageing hospitals.
Planning permission was granted yesterday for the first phase of work on the cramped hospital site.
Plans for a six-storey temporary building were approved by Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee in a meeting at Hove Town Hall.
The new building will also be in Eastern Road on land currently used as a car park.
It will house clinical facilities while other buildings on the site are demolished and replaced.
Temporary permission has been granted for seven years but the council has reserved the right to demolish the building after three years if the hospital development is not forthcoming.
As part of the planning permission the committee also imposed conditions to ensure that essential replacement parking is provided.
The council said that the hospital site included the historic Barry building, built in 1824-26, and a Grade II listed chapel erected in 1856. Some of the other hospital buildings also date back to the 19th century.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex, is upgrading the hospital into a regional centre of excellence.
A planning application for the redevelopment of the hospital (known as the 3Ts development) is expected to be lodged tomorrow (Friday 23 September).
Councillor Phelim MacCafferty, chairman of the planning committee, said: “There is a strong clinical case for having the temporary building ahead of any redevelopment as it means vital services, such as MRI scanning, can continue uninterrupted.
“We appreciate that the building will have visual impact on the setting of locally listed Barry building, but we are satisfied it is the least harmful option.
“We have taken steps to minimise the effects by granting temporary permission that can be terminated after three years.
“The decision we have taken today does not affect any future decisions that we may take with respect to the hospital redevelopment. Every application is considered on its merits.”
The building has to be in place by May next year and will need several months to become operational due to the building work and the fitting out of specialist medical equipment. This is why the application has been submitted separately from the main 3Ts development.