"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.
Robinson 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.
"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
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
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 dont 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
Robinson added that the city centre scheme had the support of fellow Warwickshire MPs
Bill Olner and Andy King.
The 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 Robinsons support is a
massive boost to the city centre campaign.
"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."