Eastover councillors and Bridgwater Town Council have welcomed the £19.7million funding for the former Bridgwater Hospital from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund The Grade II listed building, which has lain empty since the new Community Hospital was built in 2014, will now have a new lease of life as a Training Centre of Excellence for Health and Social Care. The project will see the building returned to public use by creating a wholly integrated skills development and learning academy to attract, retain, grow, and upskill key workers in the care sector. Town and district ward councillors had formed a steering group to develop this project meeting regularly with officers. Eastover town councillor Jacqui Solomon said “This is excellent news. There has been much concern that is iconic waterfront building has been neglected for so many years. To see the building having a new lease of life still connected to its original purpose is very fitting and will be a great asset to the town and the care services.”
Town Clerk David Mears said “I am overjoyed with this investment that will bring an iconic building back to use for the benefit of the community. This funding couldn’t have come at a better time, as there is a skill and labour shortage in the health and care sector. It will also be a further boost to the town centre economy.”
Cllr Leigh Redman, whose County Division the old hospital sits in said “I was so pleased to be able to support this bid and even more excited to hear it has been successful. A centre of excellence and training in the heart of our town has to be a good thing, better still the historic frontage will be saved and the area developed. I think this is going to be the start of an Eastover reboot, joined with the Celebration mile works, the whole area of town will receive a valued boost.I look forward as to rolling my sleeves up and getting things off, from 1st April the project will fall to the new Somerset council so lets get things moving.”
Statement of Objectives
In a Government statement the objectives for the project were outlined as follows:
- Grow and upskill the local labour market making Somerset an attractive place to work in the Health and Social Care sector.
- Address local health and care inequalities through a more professionally trained sector, which also helps create more capacity in primary care with more people being supported at home.
- Drive innovation in Health and Social Care service delivery and training by encouraging tech-business co-location at the site.
In tackling a complex listed building which has decayed over the years, further regeneration benefits are also expected to be realised:
- Saving a listed building in highly visible and prominent location next to the river.
- Add value to the wider, £23.2m Town Deal Investment programme in Bridgwater which includes major public realm improvement to Salmon parade in front of the old hospital.
- Drive further footfall to the town centre
- Creation of new jobs and potential for key-worker housing to be included.
Recycling our Heritage
Town Council Leader Brian Smedley (Westover) said “Sedgemoor Labour Group had ensured that earmarked funding for this as part of the final Sedgemoor Budget was in place and it was the Labour councillors representing Eastover from Town, District and County that developed this project alongside the hard working Sedgemoor officers and ensured it was what the community wanted and the town needed. The building has been in a sorry state and people in the town have a fondness for it. Including me, it’s where my daughter was born. Recycling can also include our heritage and reusing old buildings that are a feature of the town is very important, especially in a place like Bridgwater where our history is treasured. People should take a look at the Bridgwater Heritage Group article on the history of the hospital written by Tony Woolrich and Jenny McCubbin, who was a physio at the hospital””
For a history of the Hospital click here
Councillor Duncan McGinty, leader of Sedgemoor District Council commenting, on behalf of all the partners, said: “After the bad news over the last couple of days – the bus crash and the threat of flooding in the area – this is a fantastic shot in the arm for Sedgemoor and its partners. We are absolutely delighted that the bid was accepted and look forward to work starting on this fantastic project. We hope that work will start late Summer 2023, subject to the necessary planning and listed building processes.”
Partners in the project are Bridgwater and Taunton College, Bridgwater Town Council ,Integrated Care System, NHS Foundation Trust, Public Health Somerset, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council, Somerset Association of Care Providers, Somerset County Council – Adult Social Care; Children Social Care; Integrated Living Service, University of West of England.