Shaftesbury Town Council has supported plans to convert a house on Abbey Walk into a workspace for the Westminster Memorial Hospital. And councillors did not object to plans for a road linking the main hospital and staff car parks.
Cllr Alex Chase said the request to change the use of the 4-bedroomed property, recently bought by the Westminster Memorial Hospital League of Friends for around £500,000, represented ‘a very sensible application’.
League of Friends Chairman Julian Prichard told Alfred recently that the house would be rented to the NHS body Dorset Healthcare to enhance service provision. Julian is a town councillor. He left the meeting while councillors were discussing and voting on this application.
“It is offering valuable extra space to the hospital without costing the NHS nearly as much as it would if they had to pay for it themselves,” said Alex. Councillors unanimously backed this proposed new medical use for the building but concerns were raised that the hospital lies within the conservation area and Dorset Council’s Conservation Officer had not issued a report or any observation.
Cllr Tim Cook said he would take the matter up with the Dorset Council planning department. “We can only go on what we are shown,” said Tim, as he pointed out that the Town Council is not the Planning Authority. It is just consulted on planning matters. Shaftesbury Town Council could revisit its decision if an objection or serious concerns are raised by the conservation team about the change of use.
Dorset Council officers had also failed to provide paperwork revealing their opinion on a second application, connected to the Abbey Walk property. Dorset Healthcare wants to build an access road across the garden of 2 Abbey Walk. It would link the hospital’s main car park with the staff car park and would allow one-way traffic flow. Cars would enter the hospital complex on Magdalene Lane and would leave along Abbey Walk. Another car parking space would be created and a single storey building behind 2 Abbey Walk would be erected as the League of Friends office.
Mayor Cllr Tim Cook said, ‘It makes perfect sense’. But Councillor John Lewer said it would be, ‘moving the problem from Magdalene Lane to Abbey Walk’. He advised that an Abbey Walk resident had objected.
John said Abbey Walk was ‘two cars wide’ where the car park exits but the lane narrows near Bimport. “I can see the motives and I’m right behind it, but I’m not convinced this is progress. You’re not making it one way in and one way out. You’re making it one way in for the hospital and everything else stays the same,” Cllr Lewer said.
Cllr George Hall didn’t accept that view. He felt that the plan would prevent vehicles travelling to and from the hospital from passing each other on a narrow lane. Although Cllr Chase wasn’t certain whether the one-way car park flow would make a huge difference, he said that was not a reason to object. He noted that more cars park on Magdalene Lane and he suggested one-way hospital traffic flow would ‘ease traffic’.
Cllr Jeanne Loader said that the hospital staff had counted vehicles in and out and there were no more than forty each day. “It isn’t a tremendous amount,” she said.
Councillors agreed not to object to this proposal. As Dorset Council Highways had not responded, the town councillors agreed that they could change their stance if the highways officers raised concerns about the proposal. Dorset Council planners will have the final say on both applications.