DEVELOPMENT plans for Christchurch Hospital have been thrown out by planners, against officers' recommendations.
The plans included the demolition of the H block and an extension of hospital buildings to accommodate a care home, a relocated GP practice, a pharmacy, senior living apartments and key workers houses and flats.
The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has said it is deeply disappointed at the decision.
The trust issued a statement saying: "The plans would have secured local services and ensured the hospital remains a focal point for the local community.
"It appears that the planning committee has not fully appreciated the financial constraints facing the NHS, and other public services, and the stark choice we have of either keeping empty buildings that are no longer fit for providing modern day care, or continuing to provide health services. We simply cannot afford to do both.
"Two years ago we understood the Borough's priority was to retain the site for health care use. We have worked hard, following extensive engagement and consultation with the public and health partners, to develop an option for Christchurch that does this. The decision is a missed opportunity and goes against this and the amount of community support we have for our scheme. Over 600 people took the time to show support for this scheme, whose opinions appear to have been overlooked.
"The planning committee has opted to keep empty buildings over local health care for residents. H block is a non-listed building in a degraded conservation which has been empty for three years. We cannot justify investing significant public money in a building that is unfit for delivering any kind of modern health care. The viability of the scheme presented to the committee relied entirely on the demolition of H block.
The Foundation Trust, Quantum and the GP practice will jointly review what options we now have. We know that we may lose the funding for the GP practice. We will have to review what health services we can continue to deliver from Christchurch and what can be delivered from the Royal Bournemouth, where they can be more efficiently delivered, and reduce the investment costs in the older buildings at Christchurch.
The simple reality is that the £10m+ investment in health care accommodation at Christchurch relied on the funds generated from the nursing home and the key worker and senior living accommodation to make these affordable. Without the scheme as it stands we are no longer in a position to make that investment.
"We will continue to work with planning officers and councillors and hope to find a way forward in the very near future. However our options must include considering whether to appeal and the amount of services that can continue on site."
Councillor Colin Jamieson, chairman of Christchurch Council's planning control committee, said: "The Council continues to see the provision of modern, high quality health care facilities, particularly for the elderly, as a priority for residents of Christchurch. The Council has worked very closely with the Hospital Trust over the last two years advising them on what it would see as a suitable scheme located in what is a prominent conservation area within the town.
"The planning control committee felt that, given the importance and planned longevity of the site, the balance between the buildings was not correct. What was expressed by the committee was the need for a building of greater architectural merit to dominate the site with the assisted living block subservient to it, and members felt that the design put forward did not achieve this.
"The Council remains committed to working with the Hospital Trust to find a design that would enhance this prominent site in the Borough and which we could all feel proud of."