Shropshire Star

Friends group 'fears for the future' of Ludlow Hospital if controversial entertainment and alcohol plans approved

A hospital league of friends group is calling on the people of Ludlow to join them in opposing plans for an alcohol licence on the site.

Picture: Ludlow Hospital League of Friends

The League of Friends of Ludlow Hospital are opposed to both a planning application and one for an alcohol licence the former maternity unit on the site, which was sold off by the NHS in 2017.

It was given permission to be used for small private business premises.

The league of friends is opposing plans for more varied uses including permission for both daytime and evening mixed business and hospitality use, including the playing of music and showing of films.

The other application is for a licence for the sale and consumption of alcohol on and off the premises.

The friends say the buildings stand within just a few feet of the main hospital ward where many elderly patients are accommodated, including an end of life suite.

Michael Evans and Jennifer Gill, who jointly chair the league of friends, say staff at the hospital greatly fear potential disturbances having damaging effects on patients as well as their visiting families.

“No hospital should ever have alcohol available and be consumed in or near both its own buildings or those adjacent to it,” said Mr Evans.

“This would be against all principles of health care, some of the in patients can be those recovering from alcohol-induced illnesses.”

Jennifer Gill, joint co chair, also expressed the trustees’ concerns about the "inadequate" car parking on the hospital site.

“There are already insufficient car spaces during both day and night times for hospital staff, out patients and visiting families of in patients," she said.

"If these applications are given permission there would be severe disruption with so many vehicles needing parking space.

"During recent building works on the conversion of the unit, some ambulances have been unable to manoeuvre to the main entrance”.

She added that very few streets surrounding the hospital have adequate car parking, which already makes life difficult especially for night duty staff.

The trustees of the league of friends say that both nursing staff as well as management at the hospital have said how very worried they are about the proposals and that they fear for the wellbeing of the patients as well as hospital being able to run efficiently.

The two formal applications to Shropshire Council only came to light during the recent Christmas period, which the league of friends say gives very short time for objections to be sent in.

The league of friends is urging local people to support their objections to Shropshire Council.

They also claim that if the other vacant building on the site was to be sold by the NHS for similar uses it could mean the end of the community hospital.

One of the figures behind development plans for the former maternity unit has said the scheme will create “a community-led, educationally-driven project”.

Annabelle Brousse de Gersigny, from Hundred House Coffee, has applied to Shropshire Council for permission to use units one and two at SY8 Studios in Ludlow for a creative studios project called ‘Gather’.

As well as the application for change of use, a proposal has also been submitted for an alcohol licence.

The application for the alcohol licence requests permission to be able to sell alcohol, for on and off-site consumption, from noon to 11pm every day of the week, apart from Sunday when the permission would run from noon to 10pm. It also asks permission to be able to host the screening of films.

Ms Brousse de Gersigny has moved to address the concerns in a lengthy comment published on the blog of Ludlow councillor Andy Boddington, saying they are taken “seriously”.

She says the proposal will not include a physical bar, and that the application for the licence is so it can be “flexible” – and also to raise money to support ‘non-profit programming’. She says the site could also support local alcohol producers by selling their products.

Ms Brousse de Gersigny added that the film licence is required even for a modest ‘film club’, and says there are no plans for it to become a cinema.

She said: “We have applied for a licence that is flexible to respond to different kinds of events where the consumption of alcohol is not a priority.

“As a contemporary space, similar to other maker spaces and co-working communities around the world, having a licence allows us to be flexible around this programming and to raise additional funds to support non-profit programming.

“A drink after work is something we see happening on occasion when there is an event running – especially alongside a talk by one of our members, for example. It’s not about drinking and working irresponsibly, it’s about community building for freelancers and the ability to build programming and networking around their interests and those of the closer community.

The capacity of the spaces would be around 20 people.

Ms Brousse de Gersigny added: “We have been open and honest about all our intentions and have been public about them at every step. We want to hear from the community with any concerns – we are more than happy to meet or chat online to discuss them in more detail.

"We have taken advice and guidance to ensure we do not do anything that is unregulated, unsafe, or could get in any way out of hand and affect our neighbours. We have a very good relationship with the hospital and would not in any way want to negatively impact the incredible team and their patients."