New battle looms over Midhurst historic hospital site

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A new battle looks set to take place over plans to restore Midhurst’s historic King Edward VII hospital as new proposals were unveiled this week.

Developers City and Country, who were refused planning permission by the new South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) in July, have reworked the controversial plan and put it back in front of planners.

They were thrown out earlier this year because members of the SDNPA believed the plans to restore the listed historic buildings by putting up 220 new homes would leave a funding shortfall of between £25m and £35m. They feared developers would come back asking to build even more new houses to fund the restoration.

But now City and Country say they have tweaked the order of construction and added more units which close the funding gap ‘to a level which will ensure that the future of the overall heritage assets is secured’.

However several objections have already been lodged and as the Observer went to press yesterday, the new plan was being debated by Easebourne parish councillors who objected strongly to the previous plan and are unlikely to change their minds.

Chairman Ian Heustice, expressing a personal view before his council’s meeting, said: “The latest application from City and Country for 416 homes at the KEVII site is larger than the one refused by the SDNPA in July and the reasons we listed as objections for that proposal are in fact exacerbated.”

The new proposals include conversion of the historic sanatorium building to 148 apartments, the conversion of The Lodge, Engine House, Motor House and nurses’ accommodation to 30 houses and apartments, erection of two-storey terraces and 3.5-storey apartments to provide 79 assisted-care living units, erection of 51 apartments, 108 houses and construction of underground and surface parking.

Submitting the application, City and Country said they had taken on board English Heritage’s advice to examine if more new homes could be added without detriment to the historic buildings.

As a result, they said, the new plans differed from those refused last July in that the sanatorium building would now be converted to open-market homes and the assisted-care units would be built in the east apartment blocks and in Superintendents Drive.

City and Country claimed the revised plans meant the old hospital building would be completed more quickly.

They also claimed these improvements and the extra new units planned reduced the funding shortfall to between £6.3m and £15.7m.

“Although this is still a significant sum we are confident that City and County will be able to deliver the scheme and that this assertion will be once again endorsed by the District Valuation Service.”

But the developers are likely to face another barrage of protest in the coming weeks.

Mr Heustice said he personally, believed: “The destruction of woodland and wildlife habitat including some internationally important species, not only over the construction period but effectively forever is totally unacceptable.

“Road safety in the narrow country lane which is Kings Drive and increasing problems at the junction of Kings Drive and the A286 must be of great concern. Development of this size would increase our village population by some 40 per cent putting even more pressure on local infrastructure.”

The developers hope the plan will go before the national park’s October 14 meeting.