Published: 00:00, 24 February 2015
| Updated: 08:23, 24 February 2015
Exciting plans for the town’s abandoned hospital maternity block could see it replaced with flats, offices or shops.
The grey, towering building in Bath Street, Gravesend – formerly Gravesend and North Kent Hospital’s maternity unit – has been the focus of many a grumble over the years.
After years of decay, KentOnline's sister paper the Gravesend Messenger can reveal Gravesham council is in talks with NHS Property Services about how to develop the site.
Council leader Cllr John Burden said progress with NHS Properties, which owns the land, was still at a very early stage but a number of options had been discussed.
Cllr Burden said it was a “key brownfield site” and the council’s preference would be to see housing built there to help with the accommodation problems in Gravesham.
He said: “What’s happening is they’re [NHS Property Services] coming forward with different ideas and the only thing they’re not including is an industrial building. What they are discussing is offices, housing and shops.”
The opening of Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford made the Gravesend hospital obsolete and it closed in 2004. Partial services remained in the maternity block until it closed in 2006.
The modern, and smaller, Gravesham Community Hospital was built on part of the plot. It deals with minor injuries, blood tests and X-rays.
But the old and decrepid M-block still stands, and has become a target for fly tippers and vandals.
Cllr Burden said progress had been slow because for some time, nobody was sure which government or NHS department was responsible for the building.
We have been very frustrated with the lack of progress over a number of years..." - Cllr John Burden
He said: “Now we’re in a position where there is more certainty regarding the ownership of the building, there are things that can be done via the health authority that can be more positive.”
How much a development would cost and a start date have yet to be discussed."
The council boss said: “It all depends on the nature of the market and how they see it moving and what it will take to get back into the site.
“The timeline is very hard to say, with the election coming up, regarding how they’re going to move things forward.
“I think we’re going to have to wait and work alongside them. We have been very frustrated with the lack of progress over a number of years there and we’ve explained that to people.
“After the reshaping of the NHS things have now settled down and people have come forward to say they are responsible for the site and now we can more pressure on people to do something about it.
“It is about bringing the site forward.”
An NHS Property Services spokesman said the organisation wanted to see a resolution that was best for everyone.
He said: “We are working hard to progress plans for this vacant site.
“The property was declared surplus to NHS requirements by healthcare commissioners in January 2014 and as owners of this vacant site, our role is to ensure best value for the taxpayer and the NHS.
“Since then we have carried out a number of surveys and completed other necessary procedures, including checking whether any other public organisations are interested in acquiring it.
“We are due to meet with the local authority’s planning department soon to discuss the future of the site.”