Felixstowe: Campaigners call for Bartlet to get ‘Big Society’ relaunch

FELIXSTOWE: Campaigners are today calling for health bosses to embrace the spirit of prime minister David Cameron’s “Big Society” – and give Felixstowe’s former Bartlet Hospital back to the community.

It will be four years in the new year since the primary care trust announced it had a buyer for the building – a deal which collapsed earlier this year after no plans were agreed, no deals signed and no money changed hands.

“It will be three years next month since the hospital closed its doors and since then it has just stood there, empty, decaying, providing no use to the community at all,” said town and district councillor Mike Ninnmey.

“There are lots of interesting questions to be asked about how the site was marketed previously – via an Essex specialist, a Norfolk estate agency with a Manchester-based company then chosen as developer.

“No one has been able to explain why after three years the developer was not able to develop the site, not even able to submit a planning application.

“I think it is time the community was asked to be involved in the project. Mr Cameron keeps telling us that the ‘Big Society’ will run all our services in future and this could be a prime project.

“Plans already exist and at one time the campaign here in Felixstowe had the prospect of a major benefactor, which will need looking into again. The building must not be left to go to wrack and ruin.”

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The Bartlet Bequest Action Group has set up an operating and management company in the hope of taking control of the Bartlet.

It believes the hospital can become a vibrant “health village” to serve the whole community – a centre of excellence for promoting community wellbeing in body and mind, serving not just Felixstowe but all of east Suffolk, in line with Dr Bartlet’s original intentions.

It would include rehabilitation and respite care, beds for soldiers recovering from war injuries and NHS clinics such as opticians and chiropody, as well as complementary health services, and community activities.

A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said pre-planning discussions were taking place with Suffolk Coastal District Council and one meeting has already taken place, with another set for January. The trust is also working with English Heritage.

“We expect a formal planning application to be submitted in February 2011 for a mixed residential site,” he said.

n What would you like to see the Bartlet become? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1An, or alternatively you can e-mail eveningstar letters@eveningstar.co.uk

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