£60million overhaul of Northumberland hospital approved - as well as 130 homes to help fund project

Plans for a £60million overhaul of a Morpeth hospital have been given the green light – alongside a bid for more than 130 homes to help fund it.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 11:51 am
Updated Thursday, 9th January 2020, 11:52 am

The hybrid application by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) relating to Northgate Hospital was unanimously approved by Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee on January 7.

This includes full permission for the demolition of some of the buildings and the development of a medium-secure inpatient unit and associated facilities, including gardening and outdoor/sports provision for patients, and outline permission for 134 new homes on surplus land.

This scheme is part of a major project, known as the CEDAR programme (Care Environment Development and Re-provision), by the mental health trust to upgrade its estate.

The entrance to the Northgate Hospital site. Picture by Ben O’Connell
The entrance to the Northgate Hospital site. Picture by Ben O’Connell

It will result in some services and jobs moving into Northumberland from other council areas.

The planning officer explained that while some elements of the proposals would usually be considered unacceptable in the green belt, the application was recommended for approval due to the very special circumstances – namely that these are necessary health facilities.

Meanwhile, the housing is required to bridge the financial gap for the project and the full value of the land sale will be reinvested at Northgate Hospital.

Tony Railton, from the CEDAR programme team, explained that the Government has agreed to commit £52.4million towards the overall £71.9million cost, but this has to be spent within a relatively tight timescale.

The Northgate Hospital site, with some of the new Taylor Wimpey homes to the right. Picture by Ben O'Connell

“It’s a really important inward investment to the NHS in Northumberland,” he added.

Coun Jeff Reid said: “It’s seems to me a worthwhile investment and we should just get on with it.”

Update on the wider programme

Earlier in the day, the council’s health and wellbeing committee was given a presentation by Mr Railton.

He explained that CEDAR aimed to increase patient and staff safety, improve the quality of care and bring the trust’s buildings up to modern standards so that they can be used as efficiently as possible.

The programme features three principal elements:

The creation of a new integrated mental health and learning disability medium-secure centre of excellence at Northgate Hospital, Morpeth;

The reconfiguration of the award-winning children and young peoples’ mental health/learning disability Ferndene Unit at Prudhoe, to improve existing accommodation and establish medium-secure facilities for children and young people;

The reconfiguration and re-provision of mental health adult acute inpatient services for Newcastle and Gateshead at St Nicholas’ Hospital’s Bamburgh Unit in Gosforth.

The current estimate is that all of the required building works will cost a total of £71.9million, to be funded by £52.4million from the Government, the sale of the housing land at Northgate and the trust’s reserves.

The lion’s share will be spent at Northgate – £60.3million, with £8.4million earmarked for Ferndene and £3.2million for the Bamburgh Unit in Gosforth.

In terms of timescales, the Ferndene planning application is expected to follow in March, with NHS/Treasury approval of the business cases by September.

The main work at Northgate would then start on site in January next year and be completed by March 2023, while the work at Ferndene would start next February and be done by October 2022.

Mr Railton told the meeting that the changes would result in an increase of staff at the Northumberland sites, with the Northgate numbers rising from about 650 to 860 and an additional 100 nursing posts at Ferndene.