A cross-party agreement has been reached on support for a new hospital in Stockton, with a council leader to lobby MPs and government for investment.
The idea of a new hospital for the town – a long-held hope, dashed by successive governments with a vision for a £460m “super-hospital” at Wynyard Park axed in 2010 and a £380m bid rejected by the government in May this year – was raised again in a Stockton Council meeting this week.
And following the party-political rancour of a leadership challenge, all groups found they were in broad agreement.
Conservative group leader Councillor Tony Riordan said Stockton Council’s vision for a care and health innovation zone with the development of Teesdale Business Park should “go further to include a new state-of-the-art hospital that is so desperately needed in Stockton”.
He said this would save the public purse rather than spending an estimated £300m on maintaining the University Hospital of North Tees, which has only eight years’ life left in its crumbling buildings.
He said there was an “exceptional opportunity” to bring together a strategy for the business park and nearby marshalling yards, which could result in a “nationally significant regeneration scheme” with potential for training, health, business and research.
He suggested the council invite Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen, the Tees Valley Combined Authority, investors, developers, NHS trust and education sector to help with the masterplan and business case for the sites. He also wanted Stockton MPs to lobby the government to invest, building on the £25m for a diagnostic centre which is being built in the town centre.
Council leader and Labour group leader Cllr Bob Cook replied: “Thank you for the motion in support of the care and health innovation zone at Teesdale Business Park and the adjacent marshalling yards. I’m pleased to see cross-party support for this exceptional opportunity to regenerate key sites and drive sector growth.”
He said they had been working hard on a vision for the proposed zone and next steps, with details to come in October, and had a “strong partnership” to pull a masterplan together: “This involves TCVA including the Tees Valley Mayor, our NHS partners, Teesside University and Stockton Riverside College.
He said this included looking at options for clinical facilities, and state-of-the-art hospital facilities in the borough. They would be raising awareness with major investors and developers, he added.
“I will be pleased to count on your support with this. Similarly I hope that I can count on you to help secure government support for this nationally significant initiative, and we can use our collective influence to confirm national policy approaches and leverage national resources to deliver. The cabinet is already committed to this once-in-a-generation opportunity,” said Cllr Cook.
He put forward a few changes to Cllr Riordan’s proposals, pledging council support for building “a new state-of-the-art acute hospital within the borough”. Labour member Cllr Paul Rowling said: “There’s cross-party agreement that we’re well overdue one.”
Conservative Cllr Dan Fagan said: “I think we need to consider a strategy for a replacement of North Tees Hospital right away. That hospital is indispensable to local health care delivery in both expertise and capacity. This must be replaced with a new hospital to serve the local community.
“Built on this proposed site, the new hospital would have the unique opportunity to build a hospital from the ground up, a smart hospital if you like, incorporating patient-focused technology and digital transformation to deliver clinical excellence and also cost savings. This is a vision for the NHS and the wider community in Stockton and the North-east to deliver real proper 21st-century care at the patients’ doorstep and fuel vital growth and jobs in the regional economy.”
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Regeneration cabinet member Cllr Nigel Cooke said he welcomed the support: “We are committed to exploring that potential.”
Cllr Barry Woodhouse said he supported it but had a difficulty with the proposed location, saying: “The ideal place to build a new hospital would be on the north side of the river.”
Cllr Riordan said: “I’m not overly precious where the hospital is built. I’m not overly precious as long as we get cross-party support for building a new hospital in the borough.” Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the amended motion. Cllr Cook will write to Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and both Stockton MPs to lobby the government.