Southwold Hospital could be kept for community use if it is closed
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Residents want to see a hospital under threat of closure kept for community use if it is closed down, a campaign group has said.
Southwold Hospital's future hangs in the balance after the Waveney and Great Yarmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) HealthEast - which is responsible for providing healthcare services in the area - proposed closing the site, instead providing more 'beds with care' in the community.
Residents have made clear during a public consultation they do not want to see the hospital close without alternative provision put in place.
But at this week's Southwold Town Council meeting, town councillor Will Windell said people need to recognise: 'Its future is uncertain' - and said the town should make preparations to try and safeguard it for community use.
John Perkins, chairman of the Southwold and Reydon Society, said: 'If it does have to close as a hospital under the current health service changes, people want to see it kept for use by the local community which is what it was intended for.
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'They don't want to see it bought by a developer and demolished.'
Southwold Town Council has now voted unanimously to a proposal by Mr Windell to nominate the hospital as an 'asset of community value' - a scheme brought in under the government's 2011 Localism Act which prevents the building being sold for six months.
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If the nomination to Waveney District Council is successful, that would give residents a chance to raise the funds needed to put together a credible bid which would rival an outside developer.
'We're not quite certain of the future of the hospital but I'm sure people will come up with ideas of how it could be used,' Mr Windell added.
Fellow town councillor Jessica Jeans called the suggestion a 'no brainer', adding: 'Any community group can make a bid - multiple groups can make a bid.
'It doesn't force the NHS to accept the bid - they could still go with a developer who offers them more - but it gives breathing space for community groups to attempt to put together a package which would keep that property in community use.'
Michael Ladd, also a member of the town council, also supported to move - but said it was important to involve the Hospital League of Friends in the application.
Mr Perkins added: 'I think the council's decision and the fact it was unanimous shows the strength of feeling there is in Southwold about the hospital. It was built with subscriptions from local people and although it was taken over by the NHS in 1948, many still believe it belongs to the town.'
What do you think of the the proposal to close Southwold Hospital? Write, giving your full contact details, to: Journal Postbox, 147 London Road North, Lowestoft NR32 1NB or email firstname.lastname@example.org