VILLAGERS are being urged to have their say on proposals to redevelop part of the Ashurst Hospital site with about 30 new homes or care housing.
The NHS says some of the land off the A35 is surplus to requirements and is now asking for it to be included in the draft Local Plan containing sites earmarked by the New Forest National Park Authority for development.
If it gets the go-ahead, the Snowden building, which contains the birthing centre as one of the few facilities left at Ashurst Hospital, would be retained.
The NPA’s draft Local Plan has already been through several rounds of consultation since 2015 and two weeks of examination hearing sessions by government planning inspectors in November, as reported by the A&T.
But as there has now been a last-minute change to those proposals residents are now being asked to submit their views in a six-week consultation.
Steve Avery, NPA executive director of strategy and planning, said: “We met with NHS Property Services and Natural England to discuss how the site can be allocated for redevelopment in our draft Local Plan in a way that protects the natural and built environment features of the site.
“In drafting the policy, we commissioned a detailed assessment of potential impacts on the internationally-protected habitats that adjoin the site.
“This work has influenced the proposed form of residential development on the site. Our draft allocation policy also seeks to retain the Victorian Chapel at the entrance to the site.
“We have taken into account the feedback we received in summer 2017 on the potential redevelopment of the site and would encourage people to submit their comments on the draft policy during the six-week consultation period.”
The hospital was originally a New Forest Union workhouse that was built in 1836 at a cost of £5,000, with space for 200 people.
As it has aged many of its health services have been transferred to more modern hospitals across the New Forest area.
Ashurst and Colbury Parish Council say they are in favour of the site being redeveloped “as long as what is put there is suitable”.
A spokesperson for the council told the A&T: “We realise that there are limitations with the site and we favour a single management facility such as warden assisted apartments, or a care home.
“There also needs to be care taken to allow the efficient use of the birthing centre and other health facilities which will be retained there.
“It’s also important to be aware of the impact on protected habitats to the south of the site.”
The public consultation started last Wednesday and will run until Wednesday 6th March. Details can be found at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/localplan.
Comments should be emailed direct to the planning inspectors, addressed to the Local Plan Programme Officer at email@example.com by 5pm on Wednesday 6th March.
The consultation will be followed by a one-day public hearing at Lymington Town Hall on 21st March.