Fresh anger at NHS farm car park bid

Stop this nonsense and think of the public!

SUFFOLK: Stop this nonsense and think of the public!

That was the clarion call from MPs from across the political spectrum today as anger mounts over health bosses' controversial decision to turn a �500,000 farm site into a staff car park - despite the rest of the country preparing to tighten its belt.

At a time when the government is warning of cutbacks and tax increases, NHS Suffolk, the county's Primary Care Trust (PCT), is still adamant about proceeding with its proposals.

Outrage was sparked after it was discovered that NHS Suffolk spent �475,000 of public money on the project without the full approval of the board or a public consultation.

Today, politicians demanded NHS Suffolk halt the spend on a new car park and put the money back into the public purse.

Their plea - backed by The Evening Star - comes after it emerged NHS Suffolk is going to submit planning permission to Mid Suffolk District Council this month to transform the farm into a car park. Bosses insist it is a sound financial investment.

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With the planning process also expected to run into thousands at the cost to the taxpayer, politicians are furious that the project is still going ahead.

Ben Gummer, prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives in Ipswich, said: “The PCT seems to be oblivious to the fact that we are in the worst financial crisis Britain has ever faced in peace time.

“If it really had the healthcare needs of Ipswich and Suffolk people at its heart, it would stop feathering its own nest and put the money into a contingency fund for the hard years ahead.”

John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, added: “It is outrageous that at a time when the National Health Service is going to face big cuts, here in Suffolk they seem not to understand the seriousness of the nation's financial plight. It is wholly unacceptable that they are spending taxpayers' money on this car park - no company in the private sector would do this and then expect its shareholders to pick up the bill.”

Chris Mole, MP for Ipswich, added: “I am surprised that they chose a location which meant so many people have to drive to work. I think most people will think that the spending priority for the NHS should be on frontline staff like doctors and nurses.”

What do you think about the plans? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

It was only after The Evening Star pushed the organisation on its controversial decision to purchase the six-acre site and turn it into a car park that health chiefs held up their hands and said they regretted not discussing it in public at an earlier stage.

However they insist it is a sound financial investment.

Martin Royal, director of business development and external relations at NHS Suffolk, said: “Our situation remains unchanged and therefore our intention is to continue to develop that site in line with the way we have already announced.

“Circumstances have not changed for us. The bottom line for us is we believe it was a sound investment. We can return to it at a later date if we decide to relieve ourselves of the asset and put it back into the NHS. In the meantime it will operate as a car park.

“The planning application is going in later this month. We are waiting for the flood risk assessment to be completed.”

Mr Royal explained that like any commercial operation, several surveys have had to be undertaken as a prerequisite before a planning application could be submitted, hence the delay from purchasing the farm earlier this year.

Current car parking charges are:

�0.70 30 minutes

�1.30 1 hour

�2.60 2 hours

�3.90 3 hours

�5.20 4 hours

�7.80 6 hours

�11.00 over 6 hours

Long-stay visitor charge:

�5.20 three days

�7.80 five days

Frequent patient charge:

(for radiotherapy, oncology, physiotherapy and phototherapy)

�2.60 eight visits

Contractors charge:

�5.20 per day

Source: Ipswich Hospital

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