Save hospital – but not at any cost

Readers and all who live and work in the area should be concerned more than ever at the way the KE VII development scheme is being assessed in the planning process that applies now we are a part of the South Downs National Park.

On April 1, the SNDP authority became responsible for approving all planning applications, and for this project it has a target date for resolution in mid-July.

At a public meeting on June 16 called by the applicants and chaired by the SDNP authority planning department, much was made of the ‘conservation deficit’ of the scheme (ie the cost of conservation versus the new value of the conserved ‘asset’).

Other than through questions from the audience, very, very little was concerned with the ‘social deficit’ of the scheme (ie the deterioration of living conditions for local people versus the public benefits gained), the main concern of myself and many others who live, work, visit or even pass through the area.

This is not surprising as the main providers of the services which create our local social environment, and who will be responsible for coping with the extra demands placed on it, were not present at the meeting to explain how they will meet these demands, as these bodies are no longer relevant to the decision-making process.

Given the new separation of responsibility for planning approval away from our local government, it is difficult to know to whom one should complain regarding the deleterious impact this scheme will have upon our lives.

Who now has the responsibility to assess this ‘social deficit’ and rule on its acceptability?

As was clearly evident at the meeting, birds, rare snails, trees and old buildings have well-funded, active pressure groups fighting for their wellbeing and the preservation of their habitats. (There are even laws to ensure this!)

Who will do the same job for the local (tax-paying) population?

Not our locally-elected district councillors, who voted 10-0 in support of the scheme and anyway are no longer relevant to the decision process.

The public benefit we will gain is – take a deep breath – two days per year access to the site and its gardens!

This is a totally inadequate recompense (as would be 365 days per year) for ten years of construction traffic clogging the already-crowded streets of Midhurst and adding to the dangers of the Kings Drive/A286 junction.

Not to mention the 600 or more cars hunting for parking spaces in the already-full Midhurst car parks and at Haslemere station, and adding to the queues on the A286 and the A272 on Goodwood race days, festivals of speed and nostalgia and summer Friday evenings.

Already, the medical and educational facilities of the area are overstretched.

Are they to become even more overloaded?

Who is addressing this depletion of our social environment in the planning process and how will it be evaluated and, if possible, avoided?

The developers?

The park authority?

Our local councils?

I suspect most local residents feel as I do – save the hospital from ruin if you can, but please, not at this social cost and for the meagre benefits we will receive in return.

TJ Webber

Easebourne Street