|Thomas Linacre Extension
Whilst not an item on our current at risk register, I felt the need to write down the position we are in at the moment and reasoning behind objecting to current proposals of the NHS to re-house their Ophthalmology and Paediatric departments from the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary down to Parson’s Walk.
Having views the proposals at great depth, from a heritage & conservation point of view I see this as a no go. The scheme does not compliment the building and any changes which upset the layout are to be of great detriment to its image. Planning policy will say otherwise, but unfortunately these government set out policies are something the planning authority have to abide by, a bible if you like, whether we like it or not. Having a good relationship with case officers and other individuals within the authority, I am aware of the above and the difficulty in protecting heritage when their own views, like ours, potentially conflicting with current policy.
Before arguing over heritage & conservation of the site, I must mention current car parking provisions available to the public and staff. They are as follows: -
103 parking spaces, 74 for public use with 12 disabled. 29 for staff.
The proposed newly arranged car parking areas are as follows: -
77 parking spaces, 53 for public use with 12 disabled. 24 for staff.
Yes, that’s a reduction in car parking! Parson’s Walk suffers some of the most horrendous traffic and the Linacre always boasts a busy car park at most times of the day. Based on this alone and not being able to provide for increased traffic to the new departments, I believe it should have been thrown out and the applicant asked to provide further plans on car parking provision. A slight concern I have is the new substation built in Mesnes Park behind the Thomas Linacre has a road leading from the back of the building, it already seems to encroach upon park land. How much longer before the Thomas Linacre would like to negotiate that piece of empty land for car parking provision? Just one to throw in the mix.
Our other concern which triggered a reaction from the group is based upon heritage & conservation, which is why we exist. Currently based within a Conservation Area deemed at risk by the English Heritage, the proposals will take away the glamour of the current listed building that is the Thomas Linacre and create a ripple effect on an already shaky existence as a Conservation Area. The plans are not in keeping with the site and will always look like “that extra bit” rather than integration in to the current architecture of the building.
Overall I believe the complex is too small for extending, and a derelict site should be considered which houses Ophthalmology and Paediatrics only. It has been tried at the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary to fit everything on the same site and this has made the place a parking nightmare. I foresee the NHS wanting to reduce current congestion up there but all they seem to be doing is moving the problem on elsewhere.
The application was minded to approve by the planning department and duly passed by the planning committee.