Plans for workshops and offices at Ludlow Community Hospital approved

Plans have been approved that will bring new life to the former infirmary building at Ludlow Community Hospital. The building has been unused and decaying for years. The maternity unit was moved into the main hospital when the infirmary became unfit for use for health services. The planning permission paves the way for this building to be brought back into productive use and to be maintained. It does not prevent the maternity unit coming back to Ludlow because there is an empty ward in the modern hospital block.
The plans were approved yesterday afternoon, after a last minute set of objections. It is clear some of those making objections had not read the planning application. There are claims that this scheme will block ambulance access. Ambulances will not be obstructed. The reduction in car parking spaces is around 12 not 18. No disabled parking spaces will be affected.

The former infirmary was advertised for sale by NHS property services nearly a year ago. Shropshire planners had advised that the building could be demolished and replaced by four houses. There are heritage issues with that though those are not unsurmountable as the building is not itself listed. Or officers thought, the building could be converted to six apartments. Neither of these options are desirable as traffic movements, parties, etc. for domestic properties could not be restricted in a planning permission.

At the time the former infirmary was advertised, Tracey Huffer and I called for a plan for a modern health estate to serve Ludlow and south west Shropshire. There is still an urgent need for that planning. We have an empty ward in Ludlow Community Hospital, two GP practices needing expansion within the next decade and an under-used facility at Helena Lane (use is currently limited by a PFI contract). Since then, there have been discussions of bringing a diagnostics centre to Ludlow at the Premier Medical building on the Eco Park, though those are shrouded in secrecy.

We need more heath capacity and more services in Ludlow and the south west but we need also a more rational approach to managing the physical infrastructure for health. The failure of Future Fit, and its sibling programme Community Fit, means that all the diminishing financial resources, which are being eroded by surging inflation, are likely to be concentrated at the RSH and PRH.

Back to Ludlow. It is for the Community Health Trust to manage car parking at Ludlow Community Hospital but the logic is that staff and health visitors park in the bottom car park. The top car park should be reserved for renal and other patients, disabled drivers and for ambulances. No ambulance access or parking will be lost under the approved scheme. It would not have been supported and approved if that was the case. No disabled parking will be lost.

Not everything has been resolved. NHS Property said last year: “We will reinvest half of the net profits from the sale of the site back into our estate locally, with a view to improving the quality of our facilities for patients and staff.” We need to chase that down. Local to the NHS might mean what it means to Shropshire Council. For the council, local to Ludlow means anywhere in Shrewsbury and Oswestry. We must ensure that we get the cash as a much needed investment in our local NHS estate.

The plans for the former infirmary are quite exciting with potential tenants already lined up. It brings a disused decaying building into use and that is a major objective of planning policy. It creates jobs in East Hamlet where we need them.

If all goes to plan, and that doesn’t always happen, it will also add vigour to the entrepreneurial and artistic scene in Ludlow. We need to use every opportunity we can to ensure that this town lives and thrives.  

This is a good project for our town. We need more schemes like this.

The plan in this article has been updated after new information from the developer.