SY8 Studios has been created in the former workhouse, latterly a maternity unit, in the grounds of the community hospital.
Gather is a coworking, creative and multi-use space in SY8 Studios. It intends to offer “workshops, events, collaborations, contemporary culture” as part of a scheme to bring space for artists and small entrepreneurs to East Hamlet. This is welcome but its application for an alcohol and events licence has already created widespread concern, including from the Ludlow Hospital League of Friends who have said they will object to the application. The proposed licencing hours are until 11pm, far too late in the evening. There is nothing wrong with a drink while socialising but in a hospital setting there needs to be strict curfew on sales and events.
Like so many applications, this came out of the blue. Even local councillors were not informed. That has meant that some people have imagined the worst rather than trying to understand what is trying to be achieved in the SY8 project. SY8 is in a formerly redundant building which the NHS was paying for the upkeep. If the NHS had retained the building, it would have meant that for money that should be going into patient care would be used to maintain an unoccupied building. There is enough space in the hospital and elsewhere in Ludlow for a much needed and local and significant expansion of services.
The planning statement said:
“We are motivated by community and we would like to see all ages and all backgrounds using this space. So many in the Ludlow community were born in the building, we would like this space to continue to feed the community with cultural programming that is suggested by and led by local makers and producers. The Gather project has been fully source funded by Hundred House Coffee. The roastery is the backbone of the project – so whilst they are two separate businesses, we believe in the power of commercial businesses to give back to the community around them. The coworking element of Gather will hope to similarly fund other community projects in the future – anyone using the cowork can be assured that they are contributing to open resources for the community around them. You can read more about our Hundred House Coffee non-profit projects [here], including inner city school programmes and community pottery and screen printing projects.”
There is no problem in principle with this project. I acknowledge that some believe the building should be retained for future health use. But that is unrealistic in the current heath climate. My view is that an artist led community space provides the right use in this context. I see the potential for many links between Ludlow Community Hospital, the East Hamlet community and broader Ludlow.
The SY8 project is backed by Jonny Bergius and Ed Godrich. Ed is an internationally known artist and has worked with Robbie Williams, better known for his singing.
At the root of the current controversy is a lack of a strategic plan for health services in rural areas like Ludlow. Our town, which has a hinterland of around 25,000 people, can support a broader range of health services than are currently available. I don’t think that people should have to go to Shrewsbury or Telford for diagnostics or routine treatment. The answer to that is to make full use of the more modern part of the Ludlow Community Hospital and to ensure that the Helena Lane Centre is used to the full.
We have enough space for our health needs. We should not object to bringing a disused hospital space into community use.
By way of background, the closure of the maternity unit met huge opposition. The sale was controversial but the listed building was unfit for health use and wards in the more recent hospital building remain empty. Ludlow unitary councillors have always opposed the reduction of services in Ludlow, forcing residents to travel long distances for diagnostic and treatment services. An empty building costs the NHS money without offering any benefits to the community. There is enough space in the more modern hospital buildings and the barely used Helena Lane centre to host the services we need to be provided locally.