St. Peter’s Hospital is a large NHS complex in Chertsey, Surrey delivering healthcare benefits to over 350,000 people. Providing the acute and quality care expected from its community is a tall order: you need the best modern healthcare clinics and facilities, and the appropriate living accommodations for hospital staff to make provision of that care sustainable.
For the hospital to become a burgeoning champion of outstanding healthcare, it required an enabling development to provide land and funding. But how to release land located within the green belt? To solve that conundrum, the Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust enlisted WYG’s planning and transport, ecology, noise and emissions, and drainage/flooding services.
The result is a highly successful scheme that has seen extensive reinvestment into first-rate care facilities and the delivery of 475 new homes for local hospital staff and residents. At The Planning Awards 2019, the scheme was even recognised as a finalist for ‘Best use of publicly-owned land and/or property in placemaking’.
To get there, our planners proposed a scheme releasing around 12 hectares of high-value but under-utilised and derelict land owned by the local NHS Trust west of the estate. It also called for creating 328 market homes and 147 affordable and key worker homes for hospital staff. To justify an enabling development of such scale in the Green Belt, it was essential to demonstrate the very special circumstances of reusing publicly owned land for the wider community’s benefit.
For one, a large portion of the site featured outdated, disused, or redundant buildings unfit for modern clinical use due to their age and lack of internal linkages. Consequently, the two trusts decided to dispose of their redundant land and buildings and reinvest funds into improved hospital facilities. The significant funds gained from the sale of this land allowed for reinvestment into new healthcare facilities to serve over 350,000 local residents.
The facilities gained from this reinvestment include an acute care unit, hospital entrance, multi-storey car park, as well as refurbishing mental healthcare facilities and decanting mental health services to more appropriate locations. Once complete, the scheme will also provide clinical services to the east of the complex. Together, these investments offer greatly improved healthcare benefits to the county for many years to come.
As with most large-scale schemes that broach sensitive challenges such as green belt land constraints, communication is vital, especially on a project like this involving a large pool of stakeholders. From a practical perspective, a diverse range of experts on the project team had to be managed to achieve acceptable designs and layout, including architects, highway engineers, ecologists, aboriculturalists, drainage engineers, and surveyors.
Externally, however, there were several other parties whose needs also required careful consideration: the two healthcare Trusts, the Local Planning Authority, the highway authority, Natural England, and Highways England, to name a few. By successfully engaging with all of them early in the process, our team effectively mitigated and pre-empted objections. In fact, staff and residents attended a two-day public consultation and voiced broad support, with the planning application itself only receiving three objections.
The project represents a unique example of two public bodies (NHS Trusts) working closely together with both the private and public sector to achieve significant long-term improvements to healthcare and worker accommodation for northwest Surrey. That this was accomplished at a time when NHS funding is consistently under threat is testament to the effectiveness of that collaboration, as well as the persuasiveness and technical soundness of WYG’s planning application.
Surrey's significant housing shortfall has proven extremely prohibitive for hospital staff, which in turn has a damaging effect on recruitment and retention of essential healthcare personnel.
That makes the development’s delivery of new market and affordable homes so much more important. And while the homes do help fill an enormous demand, they also integrate with the local area to respect and retain the area’s environmental features and characteristics. The key worker homes are a mix of two- and four-bedroom flats. This will be offered to existing and new staff, giving the opportunity for shared accommodation or homes for couples and young families.
The planning authority subsequently included the site in its replacement Local Plan, having recognised the significant contribution it would make to their housing land supply.
With planning consent granted in early 2019, the scheme has been progressing steadily in accordance with PPA-agreed timescales.
Nick Bowden, Associate at WYG, said: “We are proud of our multidisciplinary team for their careful efficacy in delivering a viable and planning-compliant scheme balancing multiple site constraints, conflicting consultant recommendations, and the planning authority’s requirements.”
With planning permission granted in February 2019, the scheme is expected to finish in 2022.