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Monday, May 19, 2014

KLS says "hang fire on cottage hospital's future"

* The traffic "pinch point" on the A539 approach to town.

A COMMUNITY group has asked Denbighshire County Council to hang fire on deciding the future of Llangollen’s former cottage hospital until the town’s planned new health centre is opened.

Martin Crumpton, chair of Keep Llangollen Special (KLS) recently wrote to Denbighshire planning chiefs voicing his organisation’s concern that should the cottage hospital be redeveloped while the proposed health centre fails to materialise, Llangollen would be “permanently and irrevocably be left with nothing, just the GP surgery which for years has been chronically short of space for its 9,000 registered patients.”

He also outlined KLS’s concerns about pedestrian access to the new health centre, planned for the site of the derelict River Lodge, off the A539.

He received a reply from Iolo McGregor, Corporate Improvement Officer, Business Improvement & Modernisation, which said: “In order to improve the pedestrian route to the proposed health centre, we have identified a couple of locations where pedestrians will be able to cross the road in order to avoid the section of Mill Street with no pavement.

“Each crossing point will consist of dropped kerbs, tactile paving and a ‘build-out’. A build-out is where the road is narrowed on one side by extending the pavement out to the centre line of the road thereby halving the distance that pedestrians will need to cross.

“Build-outs also force traffic from one direction to give way, thereby also creating a traffic calming effect, which will reduce speeds and thus further improve pedestrian safety.

“Additionally, should users not wish to walk, during the times when the new facility will be dealing with patients, there are currently four buses an hour operating between Llangollen town centre and the hospital site. Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has agreed to provide shelters for passengers using the bus.”

Mr Crumpton was told by the planners that the future of the cottage hospital and the possibility of the health centre failing to go ahead were matters for the health board and not the county council.  

He has now written back to the council, saying: “The public consultation for planning application 03/2014/0472 (demolition of the cottage hospital) ends soon – June 3 - and we’ve only just been informed of the measures proposed to make access to the planned health centre build along Mill Street safe.

“Our evaluation of those measures casts doubt on the viability of the new primary health centre which, in turn, makes the need to retain the cottage hospital important and urgent, if not imperative.  

“We ask you to withhold the Decision Notice on PA 03/2014/0472 until the new health centre has been completed.
“If, having evaluated our concerns, your intention is to permit the redevelopment of the Riverside Lodge then we ask for a sensible, precautionary compromise - construct the traffic-calming measures first or at least simulate them with cones and temporary lights.

“This approach has the virtue of finding if a different approach is needed, or even if there is another solution.
“That stretch has been identified as unsafe and if our fears turn out to be unfounded they would have to have been constructed anyway, so there’s no additional cost involved.

“If the measures fail and have to be removed then the costs will only run into thousands rather than the millions at risk in building a health centre which patients can’t reach safely.”

The planning application for the old cottage hospital calls for redevelopment of the site by way of the demolition of existing buildings and the erection of six social housing units with associated access and parking provision.
KLS has a number of concerns about pedestrian access to the new health centre site, including:

·         Night-time visibility of the build-outs.
·         18-wheelers, emergency services and tourist coaches being unable to drive through a narrowed carriageway.
·         Deliveries of locomotives by wide flat-loader to Llangollen Railway becoming “impossible”. It says the railway shares this concern.
·         The proximity of Wern Road, the new pedestrian crossing and the northern end of Castle Street at the bridge to t.he beginning of the pinch-point on Mill Street means it would take no more than six queuing cars to gridlock Llangollen and might lead to the A5 also being blocked, fears KLS.

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