Submission of reserved matters (layout, scale, appearance and landscaping) in relation to the construction of new Community Hospital and associated energy centre of DM/22/01630/VOC (mixed use scheme) and submission of details pursuant to conditions 5,7,9,10,11 and 12 of DM/22/01630/VOC relating to Construction management plan, site investigations, drainage details, noise, and engineering details of internal roads
The Committee considered a report of the Senior Planning Officer regarding an application for the submission of reserved matters (layout, scale, appearance and landscaping) in relation to the construction of new Community Hospital and associated energy centre of DM/22/01630/VOC (mixed use scheme) and submission of details pursuant to conditions 5,7,9,10,11 and 12 of DM/22/01630/VOC relating to Construction management plan, site investigations, drainage details, noise, and engineering details of internal roads on Land to the south of Puddlers Corner Roundabout, Genesis Way, Consett (for copy see file of minutes).
L Ollivere, Senior Planning Office gave a detailed presentation of the application which included a site location plan, aerial photographs, photographs of the site and a summary of objections received.
Councillor D Haney, Local Member, advised Members of the importance of the application despite the responses received to the planning application. The future of the hospital had been in doubt for decades so he was pleased that a firm plan was in place. Whilst some people agreed with the proposal, others believed the existing facility was in need of refurbishment. On balance he acknowledged that the application was an improvement.
Members had been assured that most services would be maintained however there would be an inadequate number of beds. The plans were originally for 24 beds and this should have been the minimum, however it had subsequently been reduced to 16. If there was any scope to expand the site in future, it should be supported; the planning statement acknowledged that this area had the highest population growth in North Durham and potentially the North East. After the hospital had been downgraded to a community hospital on completion of the new University Hospital of North Durham, there was already a deficit of beds in the County. Whilst the Committee couldn’t consider bed numbers and facilities there were planning considerations, such as the proximity to an incinerator, but this was yet to be determined by the Secretary of State.
Councillor Haney confirmed that the main issue was due to highway safety however improvements recommended as part of the scheme would assist to improve some of the issues in the area. He saw no reason why the application should not be approved and supported the recommendation.
Councillor K Earley attended as Local Member from the neighbouring ward’ which was where the current site was located. He was also Secretary of the Shotley Bridge Hospital Support Group and whilst the hospital was a loss to his community, they had proposed the site after acknowledging the issues in redeveloping the existing hospital. It had to be located on this site due to a number of reasons, mainly accessibility. He had initially believed that a bus turning circle would be included in the site and queried whether this could be facilitated. The Travel Plan had failed to note that half of Consett was situated on a hill. It would be a struggle for unwell or elderly people to walk 300m uphill to hospital so people would rely on travelling by car, unless there was a bus service which travelled to the site.
The Senior Planning Officer confirmed that it had not been deemed necessary to secure Section 106 funding to secure bus services at the outline application, however as part of the highway improvement works, two bus stops outside of site had been secured and as part of the wider site, there were plans for a turning circle as the site was being developed. This would be subject to a separate reserved matters application.
The Highway Development Manager suggested that a commercial bus service would not normally do the manoeuvre required due to cost and time implications, therefore if there were no plans for the NHS to provide a bus service, it was unlikely that a commercial service would deviate from their route.
R Morris, NHS County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust, addressed the Committee. The application provided details of the proposed community hospital relating to layout, scale and appearance, access and landscaping, and followed from the outline consent granted for the wider site in February 2020, which was later amended to allow it to be phased in June 2022.
The outline consent permitted a range of uses including a community hospital and pharmacy; a sheltered care unit; a residential care unit; a gym and wellbeing centre; a hotel; a public house; a microbrewery; and a vets practice.
The replacement hospital in Consett would replace the ageing healthcare facility at Shotley Bridge with a high quality, fit for purpose new facility that would meet the needs of the local population in North Durham. Government funding had been allocated to the development of this new hospital as part of the Government’s levelling up agenda for the North.
The new hospital fulfilled National Planning Policy Framework with regards to health and wellbeing and he noted Councillor Haney’s concerns regarding highways and access, however, the principle of the new junction onto the A692 and the capacity and safety of the junction was established at the outline planning application stage.
Mr Morris confirmed that the reserved matters application had assessed the layout and access arrangements of the proposed hospital development. The Transport Statement had concluded that there would be no unacceptable or severe impacts and as such, the development was acceptable in highway terms. The Highway Development Management Team also had no objections to the proposals.
The proposals would result in a number of benefits to the local community which included current and future provision of clinical services.
North West Durham had seen the highest rate of population growth in the North East and poor health and disease indicators were worse in North West Durham than the rest of England. The clinical strategy had been developed following a review of existing clinical services at Shotley Bridge Community Hospital.
There was significant public interest in maintaining local services which aligned with national policy drivers to deliver integrated services. The clinical model had been entirely clinically led and determined by individual service forward plans based on activity demands, technology and innovation, commissioning landscape and patient/health need demographic. All existing commissioned services would transfer and offer improved access but also increased provision.
The development of the site would also have direct employment benefits during the construction period.The application included on-site biodiversity net gains delivered through the proposed landscaping scheme and would create a high-quality sustainable building in terms of energy efficiency with a focus on net zero carbon.
In summary, it was considered that the proposed development would result in substantial public benefits and as outlined in the planning submission documents, the proposals were compliant with relevant Local and National planning policies.
Councillor Jopling acknowledged the length of time this scheme had taken to develop and it was wonderful to see it almost come to fruition. She wanted to see it built for the people of North Durham and moved approval of the recommendation, seconded by Councillor Hunt.
That the application be APPROVED subject to the conditions outlined in the report.