HEALTH minister Norman Lamb visited Portsmouth and heard residents’ concerns over plans to build homes on a hospital site in the city.
The Liberal Democrat was invited to St James’ Hospital in Locksway Road, Milton, by city councillors Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Ben Dowling and Darren Saunders.
Mr Lamb met members of the Milton Neighbourhood Forum, which is opposed to landowner NHS Property Services selling parts of the site to developers.
Instead they want the site to remain an open community green space and look at keeping some health services at St James’.
Mr Lamb said: ‘I can see that the complete closure of the hospital and housing on the site is a concerning matter for residents.
‘It’s very telling that there is a lot of green space for people to use and it would be a shame for that to go.
‘Of course the NHS should get rid of assets it doesn’t need any more, but it needs to be in control – as much as it can be – of local people and not just built all over because it can be.’
Janice Burkinshaw, chairman of the neighbourhood forum, said: ‘I gave Mr Lamb letters that show what our core concerns are about this planned development.
‘We know Queen Alexandra Hospital is under a lot of pressure but there are beds available in St James’ Hospital.
‘We want to keep health and education facilities here.’
Mr Lamb then went on to see The Orchards inpatient mental health unit and spoke to staff at the centre.
He spoke about having better mental health services, including drink and drug rehabilitation units similar to Baytrees, which is run from the site.
It is under threat of closure after Solent NHS Trust lost its contract with Hampshire County Council.
Mr Lamb said: ‘People who have both addictions could may well have mental health problems, and we need to make sure people don’t have to go too far for help.
‘It’s not something we see happening when we have physical problems and it shouldn’t be different for mental health problems.’
Cllr Dowling, Cllr Saunders and Cllr Vernon-Jackson accompanied the minister.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It was a pleasure to invite Mr Lamb down and take a look at the site.
‘I’m pleased he took the time to listen to residents about their concerns on housing being built on the hospital site.’