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[19 JAN 99]  GEOFFREY ROBINSON MP NEWS
Robinson Favours City Centre Super Hospital

The "newly liberated" Geoffrey Robinson threw his considerable political weight behind the push for a city centre super hospital today.

The Coventry North West MP came out in favour of the option backed by the Coventry City Council and his support is bound to be a major factor in the fight between the Walsgrave and Coventry and Warwickshire sites.

Geoffrey RobinsonRobinson was unable to make his support known while Paymaster General but his resignation has enabled him to back the city centre plan with six weeks of a public consultation period left.

The Walsgrave Trust, which runs both current hospitals, has always strongly maintained that a city centre option is not viable but Robinson denied that and accused some of the Walsgrave supporters of having an "irrational commitment" to their scheme.

He said:

"There were a number of restrictions I had to adhere to that made it impossible for me to make my position clear although I was under tremendous pressure to make my views known."

Mr Robinson said there were three key factors in all schemes – that they were "do-able", that the private sector would be interested, that they enjoy public support.

He said the private sector would be keen on an inner city site and:

"We should not be parochial about this at all but all the studies undertaken point to a near unanimous view for a city centre hospital.

"For these reasons I think the city centre is by far the best option. This investment is not for the next three or four years but for the next 50 or 60 years. There is a fear campaign that has developed that if you don’t decide immediately in favour of the Walsgrave site there could be a threat to the timing of the programme.

"I think it is fair to say that there are other programmes that stretch out beyond the deadline we have set for our project. There is no reason why our time scale could not be met and no reason if there is some small slippage why Coventry could not be an important and integral part of the second wave of investment projects.

"It has also been said that the private sector would only be interested in a Greenfield site and that is also not true.

"I have spoken to four major developers interested in the public and private partnerships and they would be extremely interested in a city centre development as much as it taking place on the edge of the county.

"A city centre hospital will not only meet the heath care needs and aspirations of Coventry people now and into the future, it well also make an important contribution to the creation of a city for the new millennium

"It will send a clear message of physical regeneration at the heart of the city and it will promote the social regeneration of the Hillfields and Foleshill areas. A city centre site will best serve the demands of access and transportation.

"The government is very clear in its planning guidelines about the location of major health and social care provision – the city centre option best meets the criteria."

Robinson added that the city centre scheme had the support of fellow Warwickshire MPs Bill Olner and Andy King.

Cllr John FletcherThe City Council who were represented by leader John Fletcher – who ruled out the suggestion of renovating both hospitals - and deputy leader Arthur Waugh are convinced that Robinson’s support is a massive boost to the city centre campaign.

Fletcher said:

"Geoffrey Robinson's support is very welcome. I am particularly pleased that Geoffrey has been able to state so clearly that spending a little time to ensure the city centre site is achievable is not going to cost Coventry its hospital.

"Geoffrey was responsible for private finance initiatives as a minister, and knows better than anyone what can and cannot be done.

"Suggestions that any delay will mean no hospital are clearly groundless, and creat wholly unnecessary fear that Coventry's people may miss out if we are not rushed into picking a site.

"The site for the new hospital cannot be chosen lightly. The decision needs to be taken in the interests of the city as a whole, and it is clear that Coventry people want their new hospital in the city centre.

"A city centre site would best serve the community. It will play a vital part in the overall regeneration plans for Coventry, and at the heart of the city it will be easily accessible to patients, staff and visitors.

"The city council will continue to do all it can to see the new hospital built in the city centre."

READ THE STATEMENTS FROM GEOFFREY ROBINSON AND JOHN FLETCHER - 19.1.1999
    

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CWN / Politics / MPs / Geoffrey Robinson / 19 Jan 99

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