An NHS plan to use its own funds to safeguard the town’s historic First World War
memorial at the Coventry Road cottage hospital site has been shelved.
Instead, the NHS is looking to a future site owner to guarantee the preservation of the Grade II-listed portico.
It is an important change of emphasis which has been confirmed by health campaigner and Harborough district councillor Phil Knowles, in a meeting with top NHS officials in Cambridge.
Cllr Knowles said: “There is seemingly no NHS money for the protection of the First World War memorial portico at the hospital.
“There seemed no willingness to reintroduce funding.
“But NHS England tell me they do have a plan. Once the move to the St Luke’s site [in Leicester Road] is completed, the Coventry Road Cottage Hospital is expected to be declared as surplus.
“I’m told there will be a key condition in the sales contract for the old hospital, that will see the purchaser become responsible for either funding the move of the memorial or securing the memorial and portico in its current location.”
Cllr Knowles, the Lib Dem group leader on the district council, added: “We will need to monitor this very, very, closely indeed.’’
Cllr Knowles met NHS England regional director Dr Paul Watson and NHS Property Services regional director Martin Royal.
After the meeting, he received a letter from the NHS duo confirming key points.
The letter, seen by the Mail, said the NHS was “committed to the preservation of the war memorial” through a condition in the site’s sale.
But it added it would be up to any “purchasing developer” to fund the preservation or move of the memorial.
A petition with more than 3,000 signatures was sent to NHS bosses in September, demanding that it safeguards the war memorial and portico.
Also discussed during the meeting, and included in the letter, was fresh information about the development of the St Luke’s hospital site.
This £7.87 million scheme now has a start date of March or April 2015, with a best estimate for formal opening now given as June or July 2016.
That represents a four-month slippage from the last announced opening date, which was February 2016.
“You can see that there is a clear timetable for the completion of the building,” the letter states.
“The commissioning CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) are responsible for agreeing the range of services that will be provided on the site.”