Ward councillors back Brighton hospital scheme but set out concerns

Posted On 26 Jan 2012 at 5:37 pm

Two Brighton councillors have raised residents’ concerns about plans to modernise the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

Craig Turton and Warren Morgan, both East Brighton Labour councillors, support the planning application in principle.

But they want conditions agreed to make life more bearable for neighbours during the ten years of construction that would follow planning approval.

A decision is due to be made at a special meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee at Hove Town Hall tomorrow (Friday 27 January).

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Gill Mitchell, the third Labour councillor for East Brighton, works for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex.

After taking legal advice, she has not signed the letter to Councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty, the chairman of the planning committee.

The letter from Councillor Turton, also written on behalf of Councillor Morgan, said: “We fully support this planning application although we have concerns regarding potential traffic congestion and the environmental impact the redevelopment, particularly during the construction phase from 2012 to 2019, may have on local residents.

“The people of Brighton and Hove deserve to be treated in facilities designed for the 21st century rather than cramped wards designed in the 19th century.

“We have been closely involved with the hospital redevelopment and with local residents who will be affected by this decade-long redevelopment since spring 2009.

“From February 2010, at the invitation of the trust and elected by local residents, I have chaired the Hospital Liaison Group (HLG).

“The HLG acts as a consultative mechanism by which residents and members of conservation societies meet regularly with the trust’s senior staff to have an open dialogue about and potentially influence the redevelopment plans.

“The HLG has been successful in influencing the architectural design of the new buildings and the final design has been significantly influenced by the views of local residents and expertise of members of conservation societies.

“Although adjoining but outside the East Cliff conservation area, the trust is to be congratulated on listening to the views of local residents and conservation societies and for instructing architects on a number of occasions to make significant changes to the architectural plans in order to complement the historic architecture of this part of the city and better meet the views of local residents.”

Environmental impact

“It is inevitable that the scale and decade-long length of this redevelopment will impact on the quality of life experienced by local residents and on their local environment.

“In recent years, residents have already had to endure significant inconvenience and disruption during the building of the new Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital including dust, noise, vibrations and contractors working outside agreed hours.

“The trust has addressed each of these issues in detail and has provided assurances that lessons have been learnt from the construction of the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital.

“We expect that the trust keeps these assurances and ensures that any negative impact on the local environment is planned for and mitigated against during the construction phases and that all processes are appropriately supervised and monitored to ensure that any disruption which may be experienced by local people is minimised.

Traffic

“The redevelopment will inevitably lead to an increase in traffic and vehicles using Eastern Road and surrounding side roads both during the construction phases and afterwards.

“Eastern Road is already one of the busiest roads in the city partly because of the RSCH itself but also because of the location of the Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company depot in Whitehawk and the number of buses using Eastern Road.

“The trust has confirmed that the redevelopment will lead to a forecast increase in traffic movements along Eastern Road of 200 vehicles at peak times between 8am and 9am and 150 vehicles between 5pm and 6pm.

“There is also to be an increase in on-site parking on the RSCH site from 508 spaces to 820 spaces.

“Dedicated patient and visitor parking will increase under the plans from 11 per cent of 508 spaces (56 places) to 48 per cent of 820 spaces (394 spaces).

“The trust has acknowledged that the increase in traffic and vehicle movements will be a problem for local residents and anticipated this some 18 months previously by working with NHS Brighton and Hove, the primary care trust, to remove outpatient facilities from the RSCH site and relocate elsewhere in the city with the aim of reducing outpatient footfall to the RSCH.

“The aim was to balance the increase in staff working in, and patients requiring, specialist services with a reduction in outpatient numbers.

“Unfortunately, one of the unintended consequences of the Health and Social Care Bill currently before Parliament is that PCT staff have been diverted from this task because they are required to prepare for structural changes required by the Bill once it has received Royal Assent.

“We believe that reducing outpatient numbers would assist in offsetting the increase in staff and patients requiring specialist services and would urge NHS Brighton and Hove (now part of the NHS Sussex PCT cluster) to ensure this important work recommences.

“Councillor Morgan and myself believe that solutions to reducing traffic and increasing modal shift to more sustainable forms of transport than private motor cars cannot be achieved by the trust alone, although this should not mean that the trust abdicates responsibility.”

He called for a park and ride scheme to serve patients, staff and visitors.

He said: “Although the location of the consolidation centre to be used during the construction phases is now to be outside the city, it is still the case that vehicles up to 40 tonnes will use Eastern Road during the day and at weekends.

“This will create significant disruption for local residents and those outside the Kemp Town area depending on the construction route and may increase traffic congestion elsewhere in the city.

“We would urge the council and trust to conduct a comprehensive review of traffic management and on-street parking in the Kemp Town area which will be affected by this redevelopment with a particular focus on

  • ensuring effective measures are put in place to prevent queuing for the underground car-park in Bristol Gate
  • feasibility studies are undertaken to identify solutions to reducing traffic along Eastern Road
  • feasibility studies are progressed to identify a suitable park and ride site to serve the RSCH site
  • careful attention is paid to the placement of bus shelters and pedestrian crossings and
  • the location of the taxi rank outside the RSCH is reviewed to determine whether this is the correct location or if an alternative location on the RSCH site is more practical
Pedestrian access

We welcome the fact that the width of the pavement in front of the stage 1 building will be increased to between 3.9m and 4m (currently 2.6m to 3.9m) and in front of the stage 2 building from 2m to 8m (currently 2m to 2.4m).

“However, we have concerns that the pavement outside the Sussex Eye Hospital and Audrey Emerton Building is too narrow, particularly near to bus stops, and can cause pedestrian congestion.

“We would urge the trust to consider increasing the width of the pavement.

Funding and quality of design

“The redevelopment will cost approximately £400 million and will be fully funded by the taxpayer unlike other major NHS developments in recent years which were funded by private finance initiatives (PFIs).

“However, there is a potential risk to the quality of the design and construction materials used which is beyond the ability of the trust to manage due to using such a public funding model.

“Construction will take place over the period of a decade in three distinct phases with funding released by HM Treasury also in phases.

“Given current global economic instability it is possible that public sector austerity measures may increase rather than decrease over the next few years.

“It is therefore possible that the current, or indeed a future government, may reduce the amount of funding to be released in future funding phases.

“The potential consequence of reductions in funding would inevitably impact on the quality of construction materials used which would lead to a reduction in design quality.

“As previously stated, it is impossible for the trust to manage this risk although as local councillors we would be remiss in not placing our concerns regarding this potential risk on the record.

“In conclusion and as previously stated, while Councillor Morgan and myself fully support this planning application, we have concerns regarding potential traffic congestion and the environmental impact caused as a result of the redevelopment.

“We hope that the Planning Committee approves this application.”

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