Anger as Littlehampton health hub project ‘scrapped’

The prospect of a new health hub and a combined blue light facility for Littlehampton appears to have been scuppered.

Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 4:53 pm
Littlehampton existing ageing health centre

A One Public Estate project proposed shared accommodation for fire, police and ambulance services as well as a community health hub on the site of the former hospital and current ‘dilapidated and decaying’ medical centre off Fitzalan Road.

The plan was for the new hub to include a new health centre, replacement mental health facilities for the outdated Pepperville House currently on an industrial estate and hospital outpatient rooms.

But a West Sussex County Council report said feasibility work has concluded there are ‘no viable options’ for an OPE project at this stage due to low land values and lack of external capital contributions.

The county council confirmed it is discussing other options with police for the East Street site such as renovating existing assets and or potential other uses.

Meanwhile after partners met to identify an alternative development approach, architects for NHS Property Services are now modelling options for the existing health site at Fitzalan Road along with an indication of capital funding requirements.

A spokesman said: “The county council continues to look at ways to sensitively improve its assets and services, with potential for combining complementary uses within this corner plot, to meet the needs and demands of the community in future.

“Public sector partners continue to work together to support each other’s projects and keep in mind a potential option to support a future phase of a wider scheme - if timings and funds permit.”

James Walsh, vice-chairman of the West Sussex health and adult scrutiny committee and Lib Dem group leader at County Hall, pointed the finger of blame at the NHS and Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner for the OPE project being ‘scrapped’.

He highlighted several recent major investments in Littlehampton by both Arun District Council and the town council and felt it was ‘high time the police and NHS invested in the regeneration of the town and wider community’.

Dr Walsh: “This is a body blow for local residents, and yet another betrayal by public services.”

He described how the NHS had demolished the town’s hospital and then reneged on the promise to build a replacement, with at least three plans produced since for new medical facilities on the vacant Fitzalan Road site costing hundreds of thousands of pounds ‘but not a brick has ever been laid’.

At a scrutiny meeting last month, Jeremy Hunt, WSCC’s cabinet member for finance, said the authority had no actual capital in the OPE and if partners pull out then the project is ‘left rather high and dry’.

He described how the county council had been left ‘frustrated’ and he was ‘sorry’ for Arun.

At a cabinet meeting days later, Labour group leader Michael Jones argued people in Littlehampton were ‘promised something better’.
Mr Hunt responded: “He’s entirely wrong to suggest to anyone listening that the blame lays squarely at our door and I would refute that completely.”

Meanwhile Sussex PCC Katy Bourne said she was fully supportive of the blue-light hub proposal and ‘would like to see it become a workable project for Littlehampton’.

She added: “However, the feasibility study is still ongoing and no decisions have yet been made.”

Littlehampton Labour councillors Mike Northeast and Freddie Tandy have expressed their anger and disappointment at what they labelled ‘yet another broken promised on local health services’.

Cllr Northeast, who has been fighting for better health facilities for the town ever since the original demolition of Littlehampton Hospital in 2005, said residents ‘simply have no confidence or trust’ in the current clinical commissioning group.

He added: “The residents of Littlehampton are tired of our town being so deficient in health facilities, especially the two deprived wards where some are now having to travel out of town to see a GP.

“And residents in the new builds are finding it almost impossible to register at a surgery because the existing ones keep closing their books because of staff shortages and over-subscription caused by the closure of Arun Medical Group all the way back in 2016.”

As chair of the North Littlehampton Steering Group he has written to the CCG requesting representatives attendance at the next meeting to explain how they are going to meet the town’s health deficit and how developer contributions will be spent to improve and expand facilities ‘that they have allowed to continually erode’.

Cllr Tandy, who has repeatedly challenged the CCG over the past five years, added: “What is most frustrating and disappointing about this farcical situation is the scandalous waste of money that has gone into every failure of the CCG.

“Local councils and councillors work really hard to ensure that new housing developers provide sufficient money to build the necessary infrastructure, and this has been repeatedly chucked up the wall on endless consultants and feasibility studies by the CCG, and not on what residents rightly expect it to be spent on – frontline health services to not only replace what we’ve lost, but equally to provide for the 2,000 new homes that currently being built north of the town.

“We’ve seen broken promises on a new hospital, broken promises on a new GP surgery next to Morrisons supermarket, broken promises on new facilities in the Hampton Park housing development, and now broken promises on a town centre health hub. Every one of these has wasted development contributions and insulted the people of Littlehampton.”

A petition has been set up calling for increased health provision in Littlehampton.

Visit change.org and searching ‘campaign for more health services in Littlehampton’.

So far it has been signed by almost 300 people.

The West Sussex CCG, which was created in April after the merger of the county’s three CCGs, has been approached for comment but has not yet responded.

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