Berwick Infirmary will be replaced with a new build on its current premises, owner Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has revealed.
The trust has given up on its preferred site, fields at Berwick Academy, after the Government failed to give a decision on that proposal in 18 months.
The trust said in May last year it was planning to rebuild the infirmary as part of its £200m investment to improve healthcare in Northumberland and North Tyneside over the following 10 years. Bosses had identified the 2.5 hectare site at the southern end of the former Berwick Community High School’s playing fields as the preferred site for the development.
A draft option agreement had been prepared for the trust to buy the site, subject to approval from the Secretary of State for Education.
The agreement would have seen sporting facilities at the academy enhanced for pupils and the community, with two football pitches moved and improved to bring them up to Sport England specifications and six tennis courts to be refurbished.
But now, the trust has revealed it is to instead to go for a rebuild of the infirmary on its current site.
The change has been made with no decision having been received from the Secretary of State and the trust conscious of the public’s frustration at the delay.
The project will be a phased build to allow continued services and will see the trust work with local GPs, NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group and Northumberland County Council to consider integration of health and social care at the site.
Steven Bannister, director of estates and facilities, said: “We have always been committed to building a new hospital in Berwick and announcing these fresh plans today represents a significant step forward for local people who have waited long enough for progress to be made.
“Over the past year, we have engaged with the local community and listened intently to what people have been telling us. The overwhelming feeling from Berwick residents has been one of frustration at the delays encountered so far, but also that they would prefer a new hospital to be built in the town centre because it would be easier to get to.
“Today’s decision shows we have listened and revised our plans accordingly.”
Alexis Widdowson, principal at the academy, claimed the sale of the land had been a “very marginal issue” for the academy, adding: “I cannot say that we are disappointed that the land will remain with us as playing fields. It did not really match our strategic goals. We feel we can use the land better as part of our portfolio of assets.”
Ms Widdowson added the sports facilities at the academy are “fantastic” and that money for the tennis courts’ refurbishment could be found from elsewhere if needed.
County councillor for Berwick Isabel Hunter said she was pleased the trust had listened to local people and questioned how much longer the government could have taken to decide the academy proposal.