Councillors are seeking to meet with Southern Health Trust officials over the frustrating difficulties experienced with parking facilities at Craigavon Area Hospital.
It comes after it was revealed that 114 parking spaces at the hospital site would be ‘displaced’ as a result of the construction of the new paediatric unit.
The £6.4 million development – as revealed by Armagh I – has been recommended for approval, with work due to start in March and completion in September 2017.
And while councillors have welcomed the move to bring a much-needed facility to the area, which represents a huge investment in the health needs of the borough, there are real concerns over parking at the already constrained site.
The development of the paediatric unit is only one part of an overall masterplan for the Craigavon Hospital site, with further works and services to follow as the funding becomes available.
The new unit approved will consist of a 19-bed inpatient ward, and associated ancillary accommodation, ambulatory department and outpatients department. It also includes plant rooms and a clinical link corridor to the existing hospital.
Associated site works include the reconfiguration of the existing hospital drop-off, relocation of bus stops, reconfigured entrances to Car Park and Maternity Car Parks, as well as additional Car Parking and external landscaping
During the course of debate at committee level at Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Independent Councillor Davy Jones welcomed the development.
But he expressed great concern regarding the availability of car parking spaces, particularly as “114 spaces would be displaced as a result of the proposal”.
Councillor Jones said that the new paediatric healthcare facility, which would also incorporate an ambulatory department and outpatients department, would bring about increased bed numbers and, as the hospital already had parking issues, he warned that the matter would only get worse.
He referred to the section within the Planning Officer’s report whereby the existing car park at the Trust Headquarters had been deemed most viable for a small surface car park, but said it was extremely difficult to park there at present.
Senior Planning Officer Mrs Creaney said the report confirmed a Transport Assessment had been submitted and considered by Transport NI as part of the consultation process. It also confirmed that Trust staffing and bed levels would not increase as part of the proposal, so there would be no net increase in traffic to the hospital site resulting from the development.
She explained that options for the location of the new facility were “very limited due to existing site constraints” and the need for linkage with the main hospital.
As a result, new parking areas would be provided adjacent to the out-of-hours doctors’ car park and at the Trust Headquarters.
During consultation, Transport NI had confirmed they were happy with these arrangements.
The Senior Planning Officer, in response to a query from Councillor Jones, said the parking that would be displaced would be located elsewhere as part of the development proposal. This was pointed out on photographs of the site.
Councillor Jones said he was not objecting to the development, but he still had great concerns regarding car parking and requested they be raised with the Southern Health Trust.
Sinn Fein Councillor Brendan Curran said he too was well aware of the current parking difficulties at Craigavon Area Hospital, particularly for those who were extremely ill or those with mobility issues who needed to park in close proximity to the entrance.
But he said the additional parking as outlined would not be suitable for them.
He suggested the committee be furnished with an outline of the plans for the hospital to ensure it was “considered in an holistic approach”.
Mrs Creaney said the issues raised by councillors were part of ongoing concerns with the current operations of the hopsital and had not been part of the proposal.
She said the proposed development and the consideration of it had been assessed under parking standards and those were based on what was required for the amount of space needed by the paediatric facility.
She reminded councillors that a Transport Assessment had been provided which confirmed what was being used and what other options there were for getting to the hospital, which included public transport. Transport NI had considered the Transport Assessment as part of the overall picture and what was required for the development in question.
As a result, the proposal was in compliance with the parking standards and any considerations over and above that were beyond the scope of the application before councillors.
DUP Councillor Jonathan Buckley said he shared the concerns raised, particularly as the proposal was only part of an overall masterplan. But he welcomed the further development of the hospital site with the much needed paediatric unit.
It was unaninmously agreed that the committee’s concerns in relation to car parking at Craigavon Area Hospital be forwarded to the Southern Trust.
It was also agreed that representatives from the Trust be invited to attend a future “appropriate” council committee to give a presentation on the overall proposed masterplan for the Craigavon Hospital site, during which time the issue and concerns around car parking could be discussed.
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