Carter Jonas secures retrospective planning permission for significant extension to Oxford hospital after COVID-19 pandemic put pressure on services
Retrospective planning consent has been granted for an extension to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, as part of the city’s response to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
In an unusual move, work on the critical care building began prior to planning consent being granted in order to meet the urgent demand for increased critical care capacity across the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, and Berkshire West Integrated Care System.
Coupled with this demand, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has experienced a surge in admissions over the past year due to the pandemic, which resulted in an overflow of patients from critical care units to other hospital accommodation such as general wards and theatres, which, in turn, impacted ongoing elective activity.
A national role
Work on the new extension includes a five-storey critical care building, the demolition of the existing Barnes Unit, relocation of the Tissue Building, a new replacement link corridor within the building connecting to the Trauma Building, and various ancillary works.
Due to COVID-19, and the important role the John Radcliffe Hospital plays on a regional and national level; Oxford City Council fast-tracked the application process, meaning much of the planning work taking place behind the scenes was carried out simultaneously to construction work.
It was necessary for the planning application to be fast-tracked due to a combination of factors: time-limited available funding for the new facility, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and the pressing critical care need.
And collaboration was key to achieving this.
The City Council was consulted at the earliest-possible stage and both members and senior planning officials were fully appraised and updated on the initial build phases.
Ultimately, this close working partnership resulted in the planning application being placed before the Council’s East Area Planning Committee where, after debate, the committee resolved to grant the permission.
A sign of the times
Huw Mellor, partner for planning and development at planning consultancy, Carter Jonas, which led the application, said: “Under normal circumstances, planning approval and construction for a new development of this scale would take many months, or possibly even some years, with building beginning only when planning permission had been granted.
“This development represents a hugely-significant new clinical facility at the John Radcliffe Hospital and provides much-needed critical care for the region.
“Achieving its delivery in such a short space of time was only possible with the collaborative position afforded by the City Council in its consideration of the proposal, and the pro-active way in which it engaged with the trust team through the whole planning application process.
“It’s a reflection, too, and an excellent example to my mind of the direction of travel of the Government’s evolving planning regulations in respect of the general easing of the planning path for health authority-related developments, particularly so during the ongoing pandemic.”