LOCAL residents are being asked for their views on plans to build a new multi-million pound hospital on a site at the southern end of Berwick Academy’s playing fields.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust announced the 2.5 hectare site as its preferred location for a new hospital last May and entered into a draft option agreement with Berwick Academy and Northumberland County Council.
As part of the consultation process that runs until March 17, a public meeting will be held on Monday, February 25 at 7pm in the school hall.
Information boards exhibiting the proposal are also on show at Berwick Library, the Cheviot Centre in Wooler, Bell View in Belford and at Berwick Community Centre from February 26. Feedback forms are available from these venues and on the school website.
Stephen Quinlan, head teacher at Berwick Academy, said: “This 10-week public consultation is part of the process any school needs to follow when considering selling land.
“We welcome the opportunity to explain the proposed agreement and look forward to receiving feedback from the community.”
The income from the sale of the land will be invested in the development of sport within the academy.
As part of the agreement, the trust has committed to reposition two football pitches and refurbish six tennis courts, enabling the school to have a high quality facility for use by both pupils and the local community.
The refurbishment of the sporting facilities will ensure they meet Sport England specifications.
Mr Quinlan said: “I believe that the improvements to our sports facilities contained in the proposal will make a significant beneficial difference to our students, helping to keep them fit and healthy.
“We are fortunate to have a large site and I am confident that there is ample suitable space on the remaining 34 acres to accommodate excellent sporting and athletic facilities.
“We will work with Sport England and Northumbria Healthcare to ensure that the highest possible standards are achieved.
“The proposed improved sporting facilities are really good news for our students and I believe that the overall proposal offers a win-win situation for our community.”
Rob Harvey, head of sport at the academy, added: “The sale of the land will lead to no losses in terms of playing area/surfaces, as the remaining land can easily accommodate our requirements.
“The tennis court upgrade will not only improve the quality of surface for tennis, but it will also accommodate new multi-sports playing surfaces for activities such as netball.”
Colin Frame, chairman of governors, said: “In this era of austerity this is an example of using the assets we have to the best advantage of the pupils, to give them a sporting chance. Therefore the governors are pleased to give the proposal their full support.”
Subject to planning, it is hoped that the new purpose-built hospital will open in 2015. No details of the services it will provide have been released yet.
However, this consultation is purely about the sale of land and not about the hospital itself.
The proposal from the trust is to buy 2.5 hectares but, in order to provide flexibility in the design of the hospital, the academy has made available an area up to 3.69 hectares, if needed.
Brian Griggs, director of capital planning and development at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “We remain fully committed to delivering a new hospital for Berwick which will bring significant health benefits to the local community.
“This consultation is purely about the sale of land and not about the hospital itself and it is a clear sign that things are moving forward with regards to the acquisition of the land.
“We appreciate that local people want to know what is happening with the new hospital development and we will continue to keep everyone updated as the plans progress.”
The trust plans to sell the current Berwick Infirmary site in the town centre.
To find out more about the consultation and have your say, visit www.berwickacademy.co.uk