THERE are hopes work to construct a replacement for Brackley’s Cottage Hospital could begin next year after an agreement was reached with landowners.
Those behind the plan describe the agreement as a ‘massive step forward,’ but are cautious having seen the project falter several times over its 22 year history.
George Britchfield, chairman of the Cottage Hospital Trust, was the Mayor of Brackley 22 years ago when the trust was launched after the district health authority announced plans to withdraw funding.
Mr Britchfield helped set up the CHT which has kept the hospital going for two decades as a charity supplying beds to the NHS.
Last week an agreement was signed between developers and the owners of the land on the corner of Turweston Road and Northampton Road.
Mr Britchfield said: “It is a massive step forward in what has been planned for so many years.
“We’ve had the frustrating situation for so long having had all the funding in place, now we have a site for the building.
He added: “It is very exciting. The next stage will be planning and we would certainly hope to see a planning application being made to the relevant authority in about the next eight to 10 weeks.
“It’s something that has been in the plans for Brackley for quite some time, so personally I don’t think there will be any problems there. And I suppose, downhill with a following wind, we could end up with ground being broken in spring next year.”
Although the Cottage Hospital is much loved by local residents parts of the grade II listing building are Victorian, making it difficult to modernise, while Pebble Lane, in Brackley’s old town, is narrow and has limited parking.
The cottage hospital currently has nine intermediate care beds which allows local residents to recover close to family and friends from surgery elsewhere.
Under the proposals two of the Brackley GP surgeries will move into the new campus which will also have a dentists, a care home and consulting rooms.
In 1995 the CHT formed the Core Development Group (CDG) in partnership with the GPs in the town to develop a replacement for the cottage hospital.
Theo Hayward of Brackley Town Council was made a member of the CDG after she declared her support for the project during her time as mayor last year.
She said: “We are all extremely excited, some of us are pinching ourselves as though it were a dream.
“Having the agreement with the landowner is the most definite thing we’ve been able to say for quite a while.”
Ms Hayward said a town like Brackley needs a hospital and added: “I passionately believe in having this sort of provision on the doorstep.
“There’s so much talk about centralisation of health, which means travel to Oxford or Northampton and people have been fighting for so long to keep the Cottage Hospital open.”
Ms Hayward recalled a time 20 years ago when she was able to take her son to the hospital with a minor injury, a service since scaled back to first aid, but added: “The great thing about the hospital in recent times is the respite care, which means anyone with a long term illness can still get regular visits from friends and family, rather than them only visiting a couple of times a week because they have to travel so far.”
Ms Hayward said there had been a determination within the town to keep the hospital and thanked the NHS for sticking by the replacement plan.