New training facilities planned on Eastwood Park estate
OWNERS of Eastwood Park have submitted planning applications to build new training facilities on the estate.
Three applications have been submitted to South Gloucestershire Council to clear redundant structures, build a training hub and demolish staff housing to make way for a 20-house residential development.
Eastwood Park Limited said the bespoke facilities would enhance the quality of teaching provided at the site.
As well as being a leading provider of healthcare training, the Falfield estate offers spaces for conferencing, hospitality and weddings.
The proposed location of the training centre is The Hutted Camp, a one-hectare area of land in the south of the estate formerly used as Army barracks.
The centre would bring together training facilities currently scattered across the estate and include classrooms, laboratories, a mock-up theatre and decontamination training areas.
An accompanying residential development of 20 houses is being proposed to fund the development of the training facilities, which cannot be built without generating income from housing.
Ten existing houses would be torn down to make way for the residential development.
Various storerooms, medical blocks, boiler rooms and 1930s classrooms are also scheduled for demolition.
Kevin Hunt, from developers Jones Lang LaSalle, said the changes were needed to maintain the international reputation the site had in the healthcare sector.
"The existing buildings are in a poor and declining state," he said. "If the new facilities could not be provided, it would be fair to say Eastwood Park would have to consider other options."
There has been mixed reaction to the proposals.
Charles Morgan, from Whitfield, said such investment in an important local site was encouraging in difficult economic times.
However concerns have been raised that the housing scheduled for demolition – described as staff housing – is in fact rented by private tenants who may find themselves homeless.
Mr Hunt confirmed that some of the houses were being leased out.
He said: "Eastwood Park is in discussion with tenants."
Eastwood Park has been locked in talks with council planning bosses for the past three years trying to develop an appropriate scheme for the site.
The Ministry of Defence and the NHS – with Crown Immunity and exemption from building regulations – have occupied the land over the past 70 years, resulting in a variety of poorly constructed buildings not sensitive to the Grade II setting of the main house and stable block.
Eastwood Park Limited bought out the estate from the NHS in 2006.