Hundreds of new parking spaces for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital?
Chronic shortages of parking space at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital could be eased under plans to develop former farm land next to the site.
Bullen Developments – which bought the land in November – is in advanced talks with the hospital to create between 300 and 700 new spaces on a private development known as Norwich Research Park South. The developer is hoping to submit a planning application for the new car park to South Norfolk Council in June.
The new car park is just a small part of a 74-acre development, which it is hoped could also see a clinical research facility built and bring start-up, spin-off and established businesses to Norfolk.
The development is part of an ambitious blueprint for the area unveiled this week, which could create 5,000 jobs in Norfolk. Norwich Research Park's plans – known as Project 26 – include upgrading infrastructure including roads and the IT system and building new office and laboratory space.
Mike Carpenter, head of planning at Birketts, who submitted the plans for Bullen Developments, said: 'We are looking to submit an application for more car parking space. The hospital has changed so much over the years. The last time we extended the car parking was in 2003. It looks after so many more patients that anyone who visits at visiting times struggles to park there.
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'The rough indication is between 300 and 700 spaces, but that is rough and ready. That is the sort of figure we are talking about.'
He said that the spaces would benefit both staff and patients.
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'They try to get visitors as close to the hospital as possible and so anything that is further away from the hospital for staff will free up space for patients,' he said.
Chief executive of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Anna Dugdale, said patient experience surveys demonstrated that parking was a really important issue to patients.
'We know we have major issues with our car parking and we hope this application will go some way to helping. Cars are parked and abandoned all around the hospital and the grounds as people try to get to the hospital,' she added.
The issue of car parking spaces at the hospital has been a long-running one and there are often queues to get one of the 850-spaces it currently has.
A spokesman for patient group Norfolk LINk, said: 'We welcome plans to expand the car parking facilities at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. If given the go ahead, Norfolk LINk would encourage the developers and the hospital to make sure the views of patients are sought at all stages of the design work to ensure the new car park not only provides much needed extra spaces, but also takes into account issues such as their location and distance from main hospital entrances and facilities for disabled visitors.'
Talks are also taking place between the developers and the University of East Anglia and the hospital to build a clinical research facility on Norwich Research Park South.
Ms Dugdale added: 'We have been working with the University of East Anglia in the past 18 months to bring some really top international research clinical academics to Norwich. The building is part of the overall strategy.'
The potential hospital plans form part of the southern area, which is due for expansion. The second area, known as Norwich Research Park North, will see state-of-the-art facilities and businesses opened up around the existing park.
Mr Carpenter said: 'We imagine it (NRP South) will be a mixture of small start-up businesses up to much larger ones related or ancillary to research and medical matters. We haven't started to market it yet. We want outline planning permission as the companies that would want to move here are at the vanguard of research.
'We will be competing with sites around the world and we are keen to make it clear that we can deliver quality. When we have got outline planning permission we can get on with a full application. The company can see that we can deliver that.'
A public drop-in evening will be held tonight, between 5pm and 7pm, and on Saturday, between 10am and 1pm, at the UEA Sportspark.
A questionnaire will be available at the consultation meetings and electronic copies of the form and a questionnaire can be downloaded from www.norwichresearchpark.com/masterplan.
All comments must be provided by Friday, May 4.