PLANS for an integrated health and social care unit in a Tynedale town have taken a major step forward.
The 15-bed, 12-extra-care flats proposal for Haltwhistle has been finally moulded into an official planning application.
It follows a long-running saga dating back to 2010, with an initial 35-flat plan streamlined and a double public consultation undertaken last year.
The consultations have led to modifications on design and position, but now the finalised plans have gone to the county council for approval.
The new £5.5m unit will replace the former Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital and restore services from the former Greenholme residential home, which closed in mid-2009. It will provide 15 rehabilitation beds alongside 12 extra-care flats for rent, with 24-hour support for tenants. It is expected to be in place within a year.
The submission of plans was described as “a significant step forward” by Coun Ian Lindley, Northumberland’s executive member for health and wellbeing.
Coun Lindley said: “We have always been committed to providing an integrated health and social care scheme for Haltwhistle and ensuring the development reflects the views of the community and key stakeholders.
“We are pleased that the application has been submitted and this represents a significant step forward for the project. Local people gave us their views on two occasions last year and we have taken their feedback into account when putting together the application.
“For example, the position of the building on the site and the design of the external walls and the roof have all been modified as a result of comments from the community.
“We now look forward to working through the planning process and bringing this project to fruition.”
The new development will also include a minor injuries unit and physiotherapy and occupational therapy facilities.
During construction, inpatient services will be transferred to Hexham General Hospital, with staff from Haltwhistle still providing the services.
Hexham MP Guy Opperman greeted the news with enthusiasm. “This is fantastic news. I am very pleased to see things moving ahead on this vital project for the community.
“This new facility will really improve services for people living in the Haltwhistle area.
“Residents have told me personally how important it is to them to see a new hospital build and I am delighted that Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Northumberland County Council have been able to submit formal plans to make this a reality.”