HOSPICE bosses have unveiled new plans to expand its base on green belt land in Thundersley, weeks after controversial proposals were rejected elsewhere.

The plans for Little Havens, in Daws Heath Road, came off the back of £15million proposals to build a new 16-bedroom base for its Fair Havens hospice on green belt at Belton Hills, Leigh.

Havens Hospices, which run both the adult and children hospices have been locked in battle with Leigh residents over their plans, which has been unanimously rejected by Southend councillors.

The new plans for Little Havens have been submitted to Castle Point Council to extend its building by 10 per cent in size, creating new storage rooms, offices, open-plan reception area and sensory gardens.

As part of the plans, new fabric canopies would be installed over the entranceway and extensive landscaping carried out on the grounds, with the planting of new trees, shrubs and the creation of a turning circle and water feature.

Southampton-based architects Influence-Cla, who submitted the plans on behalf of the hospice, said in the application: “As a charitable organisation it deals with very delicate issues regarding people’s welfare, and the need has arisen to accommodate both additional in-house staff and visiting teaching staff.

“The proposed extension will be of a huge benefit to the organisation and to the families using the facility, as well as providing a more welcoming reception with the additional internal re-ordering and refurbishment work.

“Three projecting extensions are proposed to accommodate much needed administration
space and internal modifications.”

But Mike King, of Marine Parade, Leigh, said Fair Havens needed to think about its need for offices.

He suggested the charity rents cheap off-site space for administration, possibly in Victoria Avenue, Southend, freeing up space at its facilities to care for patients.

He said: "I'm not in any way criticising Little Havens' operation. That's clearly something which is beyond reproach.

"But I think sometimes that Havens got carried away with their own desire to expand. If they were going to be using the existing space down there because they need more space for more beds, one would absolutely understand that.

"But I cannot understand why they would need more office space there when they have this conference facility they are able to let out to other people."

One of the deciding factors behind why the Fair Havens plans were rejected was because most of the proposed building was not for bed space but administration purposes, raising suspicions now about whether plans to expand Little Havens could lead to a downsizing of the Fair Havens plans.

Little Havens, which officially opened in March 1998 offers advice and support to young people suffering from life-limiting illnesses.

Since opening it has cared for over 1,000 children and offered vital support to their siblings and families.

A spokesman from Havens said: “A canopy would mean as families arrive at the hospice, be that by car or ambulance, they have some shelter from the bad weather. Children in our care often need a lot of cumbersome equipment, including wheelchairs and oxygen machines and a delay in unloading because of bad weather is impractical. This is even more stressful in emergency situations.

“The reception area is currently a little cramped and in need of updating. By adding a small extension and re-ordering the family reception, we’ll create a more suitable space for families as they arrive and for the reception team who welcome them.

"Families have told us that these subtle improvements would give them more dignity and comfort in often difficult and challenging circumstances. We hope the work will be funded by a grant from the Department of Health.”