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Havens drops Belton Way plans
8:00am Thursday 17th October 2013 in News
HAVENS Hospices has withdrawn its costly appeal to build a new hospice on the green belt in Leigh.
With just three days until the deadline of the deferment period the charity has announced it will not continue with the controversial appeal to the Government planning inspector to build on land off Belton Way West.
It says it wants instead to concentrate its efforts into securing an agreement for another piece of land in Southend. Havens wanted to build a new Fair Havens adult hospice, costing £15million, but was refused permission by Southend Council because it sits within the green belt.
It appealed the decision, but a week before it was due to start in June, Havens and the council jointly requested to defer the Inquiry. It was after the former Ekco site in Priory Crescent, Southend became an option for a new hospice. Since June Havens and developer Bellway Homes have been locked in discussions to try to agree a way forward to include housing and the hospice on the site.
Although a final commercial agreement hasn’t yet been reached, negotiations are moving ahead positively enough for the charity to make this move.
Andy Smith, Chief Executive of Havens Hospices said: "We have always promised that if a suitable brownfield site was to become available, we would withdraw our planning application for Belton Way. We are being true to our word.
“In an ‘act of good faith,’ withdrawing the appeal is a demonstration that we are very serious about securing a solution on the Ekco site, and in turn securing the future of hospice care in the area.
"Our vision has always been to build a modern hospice in Southend so that we can care for more people when they need us most.
“We have never been 'wedded' to a particular site, but we needed one that would meet the needs of our patients and be available now because - with the growing demand for specialist hospice care in our communities - we cannot afford to wait."
No final design, position in the 26.3 acre site or price has been decided or agreed for the land. However, the charity's architects have confirmed that a modern hospice building can be incorporated into the site, which was not available when the charity made its planning application for Leigh - or launched the appeal.
A new hospice for people in Southend, Rochford and Castle Point would help meet the shortfall of specialist hospice care in the areas and meet the growing and complex needs of patients with illnesses such as cancer and an increasing number of other long term health conditions.
Mr Smith added: “We haven’t yet secured a full commercial agreement, but in light of the site’s suitability and availability we do not feel that we should hold onto the appeal, but focus all our efforts on pursuing a successful outcome here.
“We cannot thank our supporters enough for all their words and acts of encouragement throughout this process; the hundreds of letters and thousands of petition signatures for Belton Way.
“However the future of hospice care in the area depends on securing the right site for the new hospice.
“Therefore it is in the interests of all parties, as well as the people of Southend, that we all continue to work together swiftly to find a solution.”
Campaigners celebrate decision
Jubilant campaigners including Leigh town councillor Carole Mulroney (pictured) who fought against the application are celebrating the news that the green belt in Leigh will be left alone.
Save Our Green Belt campaign group was set up following the planning application and angry protesters vowed to stop the charity building on the precious green hills.
Chairman Mike King said on hearing the news: ”Oh wow that is good news!”
He described it as a victory for common sense and for the local people who fought the plans.
Mr King said: “It’s also a victory for Havens. I’m quite sure they had no idea of the damage they were doing to their image in the area.
“When we started the campaign against it we were concerned we’d be seen as horrible people going against a charity but as it developed so many people backed us.
“And many who used to contribute to the charity or help them stopped that. “Someone who had written in their will to leave money to Havens had then changed it.
“It was all desperately sad. “No single person who opposed the green belt being built on didn’t think a new hospice was a good idea it was just the location of it.”
Southend Council Leader Nigel Holdcroft said: “We welcome the decision made by Havens Hospices and very much look forward to working with them in future for the best possible hospice development.
“At the same time, the Belton Hills area of Leigh will now securely remain in the designated green belt to be enjoyed by residents and visitors for generations to come.”
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