Path diversion objections could delay new hospital

The Oxford Times: Les Sibley Les Sibley

WORK to replace Bicester’s £5m hospital could be delayed by six months and the project “jeopardised” after an objection over the re-routing of a footpath.

Originally four people objected to the removal of a footpath across the hospital site, but three have withdrawn opposition leaving one that could still force a public inquiry.

In September, Cherwell District councillors unanimously voted in favour of plans by developer Kajima to build a replacement 12-bed hospital on land behind the current hospital in Kings End.

Once complete the old Victorian hospital building will be demolished to make way for 14 two and three- bedroom houses.

Kajima says removal of the path is necessary as the site is already constrained.

It also raised concerns the path would compromise patient privacy and security as it would run along the private therapy garden, and would have to be fenced either side creating safety issues for pedestrians and the potential for increased crime.

But town and district councillor Les Sibley has objected on the grounds the diversion is unnecessary, will detract from the historic access to the town, and that the closure will inconvenience people who use it a short cut between Piggy Lane and the corner of Middleton Stoney Road and Kings End.

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Yesterday, the council’s countryside and communities officer Kevin Larner met Mr Sibley, who hoped to persuade him to withdraw his concerns.

But Mr Sibley, also chairman of Save Our Community Hospital campaign, said: “I think it’s a legitimate objection on the grounds the footpath does not have to be diverted or removed – they can still achieve their objectives with the path.

“It’s a historic footpath that goes over a site of historical interest and they want to remove it for residential units. To move a public footpath needs to have an exceptional reason.

“I don’t think moving a public footpath to accommodate residential properties on a medical site is an exceptional enough reason.”

The council says it is satisfied the diversion is necessary and would only add about 30 metres to a journey.

As part of the redevelopment footpaths around the hospital would be improved.

Richard Coe, of Kajima, said: “It is disappointing to note that the people that objected to the planning application are now objecting to the footpath diversion. We have consulted widely on the project, the key message being ‘build the hospital as soon as you can’.

“These objections may mean the project is delayed by up to six months and even jeopardise the whole project.”

Mr Sibley’s objections will be referred back to the planning department and a decision made whether send them to an inquiry.

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