Hospital not historic enough to prevent revamp

RICHARD BATSON A £12m rebuild of Cromer hospital is back on track, after heritage experts dismissed claims it was too historic to knock down.

RICHARD BATSON

A £12m rebuild of Cromer hospital is back on track, after heritage experts dismissed claims it was too historic to knock down.

Preservationists threw a spanner in the works of a long-awaited redevelopment, when they launched an 11th-hour bid to get the current "handsome" buildings listed for their historic or architectural value.

But, after a two-month hold-up, the government's heritage arm has thrown out the attempt, saying the 1930s building was not special enough to merit national recognition, and major alterations had destroyed its cottage hospital character.

It means the scheme, which was midway through finding architects and builders, can now move forward again.

Rebuilding Cromer hospital, to concentrate on day cases and clinics and remove overnight beds, will use the bulk of an £11m legacy left by millionairess Sagle Bernstein back in the summer of 2000.

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Work was due to start in October or November this year and take 18 months to complete, but may slip back a little because of the heritage hiccup.

The removal of the listing threat has been greeted with joy among hospital administrators and supporters, who have been trying for years to get a new or revamped Cromer complex.

Chairman of the local hospital friends Mary Northway said: "It is really good news, much as we like the old building."

Architects would be asked to look at whether the iconic Dutch gable façade of the hospital on Mill Road could be saved in the final design of the rebuild, said Andrew Stronach, of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust, which runs the Cromer satellite site.

The listing bid came from conservation charity Save Britain's Heritage (SBH), which called for the whole site to be preserved, and converted rather than demolished, because of its rare Cape Dutch style and fine verandas.

But after studying the complex, English Heritage disagreed, saying that major expansions, including wards and operating theatres, meant it had lost its character as a cottage hospital, open verandas had been enclosed and lost their original character, and there were better examples of Cape Dutch building around the country.

SBH secretary Adam Wilkinson said the decision was a "great pity". He hoped health officials saw the value of the rare architecture, but felt retaining just one gable would be a "paltry reminder".

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