A planning application has been submitted to convert the former maternity unity at Ludlow Community Hospital to workshops and office space (22/02263/COU). The building was put up for sale last October and there was concern that it might be converted into apartments, a use that would not be compatible with the hospital uses on the site.
This is good application from entrepreneurs Johnny Bergius and Ed Godrich who have been looking for a home for an adventurous concept. The plan is to host an eclectic mix of small businesses, offices, artists, craft studios, filmmakers and the like. There is also talk of a coffee roastery.
We are desperately short of space for small enterprises in Ludlow. We need projects like this to allow south Shropshire’s community, culture and economy to thrive.
There is no plan for managing the health estate across Ludlow. Both GP practices will need more space by the middle of the decade, if not before, as Ludlow’s population grows, as health needs increase with an ageing population and GPs take on a broader range of services. From that perspective there would be sense in keeping the building to be part of a health hub for the town. But with parts of the county’s health services in crisis and plans for reorganisation – Future Fit and its sibling Community Fit – having stalled (collapsed might be a better word) there is no realistic prospect of investment in the former workhouse or it becoming part of health hub. It makes sense to convert this building to another use.
The building is not listed but is part of the workhouse complex that became East Hamlet Hospital and subsequently Ludlow Community Hospital. It is as such part of our town’s heritage. This application which proposes no changes to the exterior except signage and – I am sure a lick of paint to remove the NHS blue – will preserve that heritage.
This project probably would not have come to Ludlow if it was not for the failure of Shropshire Council to make timely decisions. The applicant’s previous application for a similar concept outside Ludlow took six months to approve and was only approved after I intervened over head of the local councillor. However, that project has now probably failed as a result of the delay in Shropshire Council making a decision.
We don’t want a repeat of that problem and it is important that this application is approved within the statutory deadline of four weeks.
Tracey Huffer adds a comment:
“The former maternity unit has not been used for some years because it was not fit for purpose. It did not meet current standards for hospital units and clinical space. The maternity unit at Ludlow Community Hospital was closed for births and that was the wrong decision, leaving mothers having to travel tens of miles to Shrewsbury or Telford to give birth at one of the most important times of their lives.
“But we can’t live in the past. If a building on the hospital campus is not used, we need to get it occupied. Otherwise, the entire estate will be seen as run down. That will just add to pressures to close the entire site, which is what so many of us think the NHS is trying to do.”