Published: 16:21, 03 April 2020
| Updated: 16:23, 03 April 2020
Plans to turn Britain's oldest surviving hospital into dozens of homes have been put on hold again.
St Bartholomew's Hospital in Rochester was built shortly after the Norman Conquest ended in 1066 and historians have deemed it the oldest hospital in England to exist today. But, the NHS site closed in September 2016.
Aspenisle Ltd's plans could see it revamped as 155 homes at the New Road hospital over the next three years, including a mix of one to three-bedroom houses and flats. But the firm's plan has been deferred once again.
Historic England say they continue to support the scheme on "heritage grounds" while ward councillor Piers Thompson (Con) said it would be "desirable" to bring the hospital back into use for the local community.
The River councillor added: "I seek to be guided by the views of local residents as far as I can, but that has to be tempered with the need for regeneration in this area. Part of that is increasing the use of buildings that have ceased to exist."
His comments came a day after Medway councillors postponed making a final decision on the application during a planning committee meeting at Chatham's Gun Wharf.
Medway council officers say the Rochester hospital site has been earmarked for redevelopment for quite some time, the latest plans submitted by a specialist property devleopment company last October.
A Medway Council paper published to the planning committee last week stated: "The application site contains a prominent historic building that has significant local importance."
It adds: "The proposal will bring the vacant former hospital back into use and is an important regeneration site in Medway."
The tabled scheme seeks to maintain the majority of existing buildings, including the main hospital structure on New Road to the south of the site.
If approved, the four-to-five storey main hospital building will be converted into 86 residential apartments, including 63 one-bedroom and 23 two-bedroom homes, while the "modern" extensions at the back will be removed.
The site's Grade II-listed mortuary building and waterworks could also undergo a major revamp. The 19th century build could be restored to provide an 88sqm community space and garden.
If backed by councillors, Watts House and Lloyd House will also be turned into dozens of apartments while the two-storey Mews Quarter will include flats and outdoor space, some with roof gardens. The hospital tower would remain.
"I seek to be guided by the views of local residents as far as I can, but that has to be tempered with the need for regeneration in this area"
Historic England says it supports the proposed scheme. In a council paper published to the committee last week, the heritage body states: "The retention and conversion of the main hospital building helps sustain the significance of the conservation areas."
A total of 83 parking spaces could be provided, with the main point of access via Hospital Lane, while pedestrians could travel there via New Road. Electric car points will also be supplied.
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. No affordable homes have been planned, however.
More by this authorCiaran Duggan, local democracy reporter