Seven years ago planning consent was given for a new community hospital on the old Oak Park School site in Havant. The new unit would have provided a range of services including older people’s beds, replacing those at the Emsworth Victoria Cottage Hospital and Havant War Memorial hospital after they both closed.
Despite planning consent the NHS decided in 2010 not to proceed with the hospital but agreed to extend the existing Childrens’ Service building close to the Oak Park site in Havant. The Oak Park Clinic resulted and now offers day services such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy but not the beds for older people which would reduce bed blocking at QA Hospital.
To recover the lost hospital beds, an imaginative scheme was drawn up to develop the large site, owned by Hampshire County Council (HCC) and the NHS. It would be a nursing home with eighty beds and a hundred rented flats for older people. These are flats that include a range of services on site including social care. The tender was drawn up and a consortium won the bid in 2014. The following year the planning application was approved.
Contradictory government policies initially paralysed the project. While encouraging extra-care housing their Welfare Reform policy capped rent levels making supported housing more expensive relative to Housing Benefit which would not cover the costs. After much lobbying nationally, the government agreed to support these higher rents for these supported homes and negotiations continued. Most recent investigations reveal that the appointed contractors have now pulled out thus wasting another 4 years work on the £25millon project and forcing HCC to start again.
In summary we started a journey eight years ago with the prospect of a community hospital; that gets cancelled and was replaced with a scheme to provide homes for older people and also a nursing home. This has now fallen through and we are back to square one. It’s hard to resist the view that there has been inadequate scrutiny, poor procurement, no information from Hampshire County Council and now a much smaller development than originally specified.
Surely Havant Borough deserves better?
[This post submitted by Ann Buckley, Coordinator of the Havant Borough Residents Alliance and member of the Havant Civic Society Committee. Ann is a member of the Chartered Institute of Housing and former Hampshire county councillor]