Published: 20:18, 29 April 2020
| Updated: 21:31, 29 April 2020
Multi-million pound plans to turn Britain's oldest surviving hospital into more than 100 homes have been approved.
Rochester's St Bartholomew's Hospital was built shortly after the Norman Conquest before the NHS site closed its doors in September 2016.
Aspenisle Ltd's £1.4 million scheme will see the vacant building revamped with 155 houses and apartments planned for the New Road health centre over the next three years.
Medway Council's planning committee backed the move tonight during a virtual meeting, which was beamed from Chatham's Gun Wharf - with officials obeying social distancing measures - and the homes of councillors and officers.
Strood member, Cllr Stephen Hubbard (Lab), described the proposal as an "attractive scheme" but Rochester Cllr Nick Bowler (Lab), said he remained "disappointed" with the lack of affordable homes, with none set to be built.
This is due to the hospital revamp's high cost and a national policy known as "vacant building credit" which incentivises developers to build on brownfield sites containing empty buildings.
Cllr Stuart Tranter (Con), said he was "satisfied" with the scheme while the council's planning committee chairman, Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), said: "We need to look to the renovation of this building to bring some life into that part of the Towns."
But, Cllr Bowler, who was the only member to vote against the proposal out of seven councillors, said: "It has to be developed to a top standard and has to be right for Rochester and at the moment I am unconvinced that it is."
The main hospital structure, which is between four and five storeys high, will be converted into 86 residential apartments, including 63 one-bedroom and 23 two-bedroom homes. These will be marketed to young professionals.
Watts House and Lloyd House will also be turned into dozens of apartments while the two-storey Mews Quarter will include eight flats and four houses, with outdoor space, some with roof gardens. The hospital tower will remain.
The scheme seeks to maintain the majority of existing buildings, including the main hospital structure on New Road to the south of the site.
The site's Grade II-listed mortuary building and waterworks will also undergo a major revamp which is expected to cost around £594,000. The 19th Century structure will be restored to provide a 88sqm community space and garden.
A total of 83 parking spaces will be provided, with the main point of access via Hospital Lane, while pedestrians could walk to the site via New Road. Electric car points will also be supplied.
Historic England continue to support the scheme on "heritage grounds". They told Medway Council: "The retention and conversion of the main hospital building helps sustain the significance of the conservation areas."
No technical objections were sent to Medway Council, but one letter of objection was received which stated that the plans leave no room for the neighbouring bin store.
The plan, which was subjected to a deferral last month due to concerns around the housing mix and "viability" costs, was submitted last October.
More by this authorCiaran Duggan, local democracy reporter
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