A CALL was made today for controversial plans to build houses on the site of Alder Hey Hospital to be withdrawn.
Stephen Guy, chairman of the West Derby Society, described a scheme for up to 400 homes on land that had been earmarked for a parkland as a betrayal.
The area of land they promised to restore as parkland remains exactly the same.
And he welcome an intervention of Mayor Joe Anderson into the furious row that has erupted, with the mayor saying he will hold hospital bosses to account.
Originally, a deal was struck between Alder Hey bosses and the city council to enable the new world class “hospital in the park” to be built on Springfield Park in return for handing over the site of the old hospital as new parkland to compensate for what the community had lost.
However last year Alder Hey bosses consulted with the Friends of Springfield Park, chaired by local councillor, former lord mayor Tony Conception, about the construction plans.
But until an outline planning application was submitted by the hospital, few people were aware of the aspirations for a significant housing development on the old hospital site.
The hospital insists that there is to be no building on Springfield Park, and the original like-for-like deal will be fully honoured.
But Mr Guy said: “We need to know whether there has always been some secret deal for commercial and housing development on the old hospital site. Those of us involved at the very start of the process of the new hospital project were never given the slightest impression that there may be a housing scheme.
This has come as a shock to us, a bolt out of the blue. We want honesty and transparency. I think we need a public inquiry and the withdrawal of the plans. People feel they have been deliberately deceived.”
Cllr Conception, who is also deputy chairman of the city council’s planning committee, told Liverpool Confidential that the hospital could have handled the situation in a better way.
“They came to us as the Friends group in 2015 and said they wanted to create a world-class park alongside what is a world class hospital. There is talk of an amphitheatre, a woodland and a café.
“There has never been a suggestion of building on the park, but on some of the land on the site of the old hospital. The area of land they promised to restore as parkland remains exactly the same.
“As a councillor I am aware of the financial constraints that will make maintenance of the city’s parks difficult in the future. This was seen as an opportunity to deliver a dowry to care for a world-class park, without any promises being broken. I have not seen any of the proposals, apart from being told three separate schemes have been put forward.”
A deal with the city council meant that the new Alder Hey would be built on a large slice of the much-loved oasis, Springfield Park, one of the few significant green spaces in the area. In return, the site of the old Alder Hey hospital would be transformed into new parkland to make up for the land lost for the new hospital.
The image above, published in 2013, shows the hospital in a restored and enlarged Springfield Park, with no signs of a housing estate.
Mayor Anderson entered the battleground with a statement saying bosses at Alder Hey, led by former city council chief executive Sir David Henshaw, to account.
“The plans which have been submitted for the former grounds of Alder Hey Hospital, are based on what is best for the hospital and not the residents. The residents around the hospital have been loyal supporters of Alder Hey and backed the council in supporting a new building. I am disappointed that there is very little information how the hospital will put right the problems that exist now, i.e. parking disruption to the existing residential community. Any new proposal must take into account that the hospital is a neighbour to residents.
“I want to reassure residents that I and the local MP Stephen Twigg and their elected councillors will hold the hospital to account. I personally will make sure this happens and make sure there is delivery on the promises made to me and to the community.
“I will not let Alder Hey deliver a housing schemes that ruins the lives of their neighbours, and I’ll defend Springfield Park, so they deliver the like-for-like world-class replacement park they were promised.
“The agreement was that an improved Springfield park, the same size as the old one (nine hectares) would be provided and we expect a future planning application to be submitted that makes that clear.
“Meanwhile, on the current planning application, I know it can be a nightmare to live near a hospital with serious parking issues. So I expect Alder Hey to be more innovative about managing traffic concerns and to bring forward a housing scheme which is much lower density than 400 houses.”