Hospital site earmarked for housing

A former Victorian hospital in Norfolk could be demolished to make way for a housing development after health chiefs placed it on the open market.Thetford Cottage Hospital closed its doors for the last time earlier this year after its staff, patients and services moved into a new state-of-the-art £4.

A former Victorian hospital in Norfolk could be demolished to make way for a housing development after health chiefs placed it on the open market.

Thetford Cottage Hospital closed its doors for the last time earlier this year after its staff, patients and services moved into a new state-of-the-art £4.5m healthy living centre on the edge of town.

But the future of the Earls Street building, which is more than 100 years old, now hangs in the balance after Norfolk Primary Care Trust put the 0.2 hectare site up for sale - with a £350,000 price tag.

Agents for the PCT say that the land is an “excellent” opportunity for redevelop-ment, with options for a high density housing scheme, retirement complex, conver-sion into residential use, continued health use or conversion into office space.

However, David Boshier, from King's Lynn-based chartered surveyor Boshier and Company, which is selling the freehold, said he would “expect” that the successful bidder would want to demolish the boarded up building for housing.

Mr Boshier, who provides property consultancy to the NHS and GP practices, said the land, which would require planning permission, was a “prime” site for a residential development.

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“It is on the market and for sale because it is surplus to requirements because of the new healthy living centre. There has been good interest in the property and Breckland Council planning officers have indicated that the site is considered to be suitable in principle for redevelopment for residential purposes or as a residential institution,” he said.

The mothballed two-storey red-brick building is not listed and is situated on a mainly residential street in Thetford's conservation area.

However, the antiquated cottage hospital, which was built in the late 1800s and given to the town by the Fison family and William Gentry, has been a friend to thousands of townsfolk over the years. Its X-ray, physiotherapy, family planning and outpatient clinics moved to the Thetford Community Healthy Living Centre along with other health services in January.

Ruth Chase, bank reception-ist and former senior staff nurse, who organised the former hospital's “end of era” party, said it would be a shame if the building was demolished.

Ed Chambers, town clerk, added that the area “ticked the residential boxes” in planning terms, but local councillors may prefer to see the existing building being used.

Dr John Battersby, director of public health for Norfolk PCT, added: “Following the opening of the new healthy living centre in Thetford, it was always planned to sell off the plot (cottage hospital) as it was no longer fit for purpose.”