PLANS TO demolish Ascot’s hospital and rebuild it nearby have been given the thumbs up by councillors going against expert advice.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council’s planning committee met tonight (August 22) to decide the future of Heatherwood Hospital.

Last week officers, who provide councillors with expert planning advice, recommended proposals to flatten the 95 year-old hospital and rebuild it should be binned.

At a fiery meeting councillors shunned their suggestion, voting 12-1 to approve the plans, subject to conditions being met.

In front of a large audience at the Royal Berkshire Hotel in Sunninghill, Councillor Colin Rayner summed up the aye vote with an impassioned speech.

“Is the treatment of our sick people more important than a few trees?” he said, in reference to officers' concerns that trees on the new site could soon have specially protected status and should therefore not be felled.

“Is a hospital in our town more important than a Green Belt?

“I think we will have to sacrifice some of our Green Belt for our residents. I think the members need to be brave and oppose our officers.”

The leader of the council Simon Dudley also Tweeted his approval. 

Released last Monday, the report warned that important archaeological assets could be at risk and that no ‘very special circumstances’ were present in the plans to ‘outweigh the substantial harm’ caused by building on Green Belt land.

The report was in marked contrast to another document in support of plans to rebuild Windsor’s much prized Thames Hospice on Green Belt land, over in Bray.

That report noted that although harm would be caused to the Green Belt, the need to safeguard the hospice’s future by allowing it to expand on a larger site outweighed the negatives. 

In the end intervention from the officers proved irrelevant as the committee gave the build the green light to large applause from the audience.

The decision comes a week after Sir Andrew Morris, the chief executive of Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, which oversees Heatherwood, declared he would retire in February next year after 29 years in charge.

The 62-year-old said: “It has been a privilege to work for our local hospitals.

“For me, healthcare is a people business and I have worked with some outstanding colleagues.

“I am proud of what we have achieved together over the years.”