Wiltshire Publications

Plans submitted for Westbury hospital demolition

A PLANNING application has been submitted to demolish Westbury Hospital and erect 60 houses on the site, despite strong opposition by local campaigners.

The campaign group STOP (Sensible Thinking on Patients), is urging Westbury people to object to the plans by writing to Wiltshire Council.

“In order for those houses to be built, all of the existing hospital buildings will have to be demolished and so now is the time for any of you who want to put in an objection to the proposed plans to do so,” said STOP chair Erica Watson.

“The NHS will not invest any of the sale proceeds to the Westbury community, which helped fund the hospital for over 80 years.

“If you feel strongly that Westbury Hospital is worth fighting for then please either submit your comments regarding the plans online or write to the planning department with your objections.”

People can comment on  the application on the Wiltshire Council website www.wiltshire.gov.uk, by searching for planning application number 15/11604/OUT where there will be a link to comment on the plans.

The application, which was originally expected in the summer this year, was registered on Monday 23rd November. Critics say the timing has been deliberately planned for the Christmas period when people are busy in order to minimise opposition. The application features 12 fewer homes than the plans unveiled in February, after a public consultation saw concerns raised about the scale of the development.

If Wiltshire Council gives its consent, the NHS is expected to sell the land to a housing developer.

A public consultation is under way, and people have until New Year’s Day to send their opinions on the plan to Wiltshire Council. The authority is expected to decide on the application by 22nd February.

“NHS Property Services (NHSPS) has submitted the plans at the busiest time of year for most families; a time when we are concentrating on family and Christmas and when most offices are working with skeleton staff so that employees can celebrate the festive season,” added Erica Watson.

Christmas timing  ‘deliberate’  

“We feel that NHSPS has deliberately chosen a time that could make it difficult for the public to comment before the closing date of Friday 1st Jan 2016, a Bank Holiday when Wiltshire Council offices will be closed.

“The STOP campaign group is still working hard to fulfil its aim of improving access to healthcare for the Westbury area and, after the recent public meeting, we are very aware that the community wants to retain the Westbury Hospital site for this purpose. Please help us by writing to the planning department.”

NHS property services has since issued a statement addressing concerns about the timing of the application. Regional asset manager John Follows said, “I’m writing to reassure readers following inaccurate claims made about the timing of the planning application for the former Westbury Hospital site in last week’s edition.

“We have actively sought local feedback and have acted upon it, including a pause during the summer to further investigate the viability of a range of care uses at the site.

“As part of this process we sought input from the STOP group and we provided updates to the group and other stakeholders on progress towards application submission.

“Public consultation periods on planning applications are in any case determined by the planning authority, in this case Wiltshire Council.
We hope local people will find time to have their say on this important application. The consultation period began on November 27 and continues until January 1, 2016. Wiltshire Council is already receiving responses, which it can review during and after the consultation period.”

The STOP group suggests that those who do not have internet access write to the council by hand.


STOP has suggested four reasons for objecting:

1. Westbury does not have the infrastructure to support any more housing and already has plans agreed for 1,000 more to be built.

2. The increased traffic from that many extra households using The Butts and Hospital/Orchard Rd will need careful and extensive consideration.

3. They feel strongly that the January 1st date for the planning consultation to end is unreasonable given the time of year when many offices run on a skeleton staff and respectfully ask that the date be extended to allow the community to respond.

4. There is clear evidence in the Better Care Plan, The Joint Strategic Assessment and extensive recent media coverage that the NHS will need to provide more health and social care in the next decade. The Westbury Hospital site is ideal for the provision of that care, not only for Westbury but also for other towns in the area.

All letters should include a reference to planning application number  15/11604/OUT .

The NHS first unveiled plans to sell the site to a property developer in February this year, after failing to find a buyer for the hospital in its current state. Almost a year of local campaigning ensued, and residents are continuing to contest the sale.

The group, Sensible Thinking on Patients (STOP) was formed to rally against the sale, and to fight for at least some of the site to be retained for healthcare use.

Group members voiced their frustration and outrage at plans to sell the hospital at a number of meetings throughout the year. Recurring grievances were that the hospital had been given to the townspeople as a gift and they had donated huge amounts of money to the facility; that many residents had to travel to Bath for hospital appointments; and that the White Horse Health Centre was already overstretched.

The NHS’s application has not changed to accommodate the group’s hopes, and the proposed planning application would see the entire site used for housing.

A marketing report produced by property consultants Carter Jonas says that the site is not wanted by the NHS, Wiltshire Council, White Horse Medical Practice, or Julia’s House Hospice.

It also claimed that Westbury is not considered affluent enough to attract a private care home provider, and that Health Watch Wiltshire deemed the site unsuitable for the county’s new dementia care facility.

Westbury Community Hospital closed in 2012 after the opening of White Horse Medical Practice, which the NHS says can provide healthcare for around 10,000 more people than it does at present.

Since its closure, the hospital has been costing £38,000 per year to maintain; a bill which will rise above £100,000 before the  planning application is decided on next year.

To view the full plans go to www.wiltshire.gov.uk  and enter reference number 15/11604/OUT.