Early designs for Cambridge Children’s Hospital win planning permission

The early designs for Cambridge Children’s Hospital have been awarded planning permission.

Intended as a “trailblazer” for its integration of physical and mental child healthcare, the hospital is planned opposite the Rosie Hospital on Robinson’s Way, on Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

Councillors heard it will be an exemplar in sustainability, incorporating as many outdoors spaces as possible, with gardens, courtyards and terraces providing access to nature and spaces for play and relaxation, while supporting biodiversity and wildlife.

The design for Cambridge Children's Hospital. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter
The design for Cambridge Children’s Hospital. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter

The main hospital building will be enclosed in a wide landscaped green perimeter which the designers say will recreate the feel of a summer meadow.

Critical care, operating theatres, day surgery accommodation and in-patient mental and physical health wards are planned for children and young people from birth until the age of 19, with space also provided for imaging and radiology, staff and dedicated family areas, biomedical research, public reception and a café. A central integration hub will lie at the heart of the building.

It will serve children and young people across Cambridgeshire and the Eastern region – including Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire – but also nationally and internationally, as a ‘hospital without walls’.

Councillors on the joint development control committee of Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire District Councils gave their approval to the early designs and floor plans at their meeting today (Wednesday, March 16), following outline permission being granted in 2009. Construction could begin in 2023 and be completed in 2025-26.

Cllr Simon Smith (Lab, Castle) was impressed by the “leading edge” work on limiting carbon emissions in the building designs, with an energy consumption aim of just 150kw per square metre per annum.

“I can really commend this proposition and this development overall really is outstanding and exceptional, and we’re very, very lucky it is coming to this city,” he said.

The design for Cambridge Children's Hospital. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter
The design for Cambridge Children’s Hospital. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter

Councillors heard that the aim is to achieve a BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating for sustainability and a net zero carbon route map is proposed.

The hospital, which includes a basement level, interstitial plant floor and roof level plant, will have an estimated footprint of around 35,000 sq m in total, including 5,000 sq m of University of Cambridge research space. The plans also include details of possible future development for the hospital.

Initial concerns over flood risk on the site had been addressed, according to a council report, as it was shown that surface water could be discharged to the existing swale. The local flood authority, Cambridgeshire County Council, withdrew its objection on those grounds.

Although the hospital is predicted to generate a need for 242 car parking spaces, only limited car parking is envisaged on site in the north-east corner, for blue badge holders, ambulance parking and car-pool spaces, and there will be drop-off spaces out the front. The remainder are likely to be found through car parks, including the multi-storeys nearby and there is an expectation that growing numbers of people will also shift to more sustainable modes of travel, particularly with Cambridge South railway station planned. However, the planning approval includes a condition that a detail parking strategy should be drawn up.

The design for Cambridge Children's Hospital
The design for Cambridge Children’s Hospital

Some 234 staff cycle spaces and 130 visitor cycle spaces are planned.

Cllr John Williams (Lib Dem, Fen Ditton and Fulbourn) was happy with the application, but said: “I do feel we are still a bit in the dark as to the overall transport plan for this site. Can I urge the NHS to come forward with that plan as soon as possible, as we’re being asked to make decisions without the full knowledge of the transport impacts that are associated with those decisions?”

Stephen Kelly, the joint director of planning and economic development, said: “That concern is clearly understood.”

He said work was ongoing on a ”much more cogent transport strategy for the whole site” with partners on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus under the Local Plan first proposals work.

After the meeting, Andrew Tollick, senior programme manager for design and construction at Cambridge Children’s Hospital, said: “I’m delighted that we have taken another big step towards making Cambridge Children’s Hospital a reality. There is still a long way to go before building work can begin but planning approval for the early external designs is a rock-solid foundation.

“We are determined to realise our vision for ‘a whole new way’: one that integrates children’s mental and physical health services alongside world-class research to provide holistic, personalised care in a state-of-the-art facility.”

Work is continuing on the outline business case, which will need signing off by the Department for Health and Social Care and NHS England & NHS Improvement

The design for Cambridge Children's Hospital. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter
The design for Cambridge Children’s Hospital. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter

The government pledged £100million for the hospital in December 2018, with a further £50m-£80m expected to be raised for phase one – and one estimate suggested a total of £350m may be required to complete all phases of the work. A fundraising campaign is continuing for the hospital, which is designed to take care of the “whole child, not just their illness”,

An international design team, from Turner & Townsend, HawkinsBrown, White Arkitekter, Ramboll and MJ Medical, with support from planning consultants Bidwells, put together the plans.

And they engaged with members of Cambridge Children’s Network, which is made up of children, young people, parents and carers from across the region, who have helped to shape the feel of the hospital in the early designs.

Tristan, 11, said: “I did a design programme with a group of people who help design the hospital. It was fun and we got to join in a lot.

“At the end they showed us what the outside of the hospital will look like. It was really cool and I liked it a lot.

“When I saw the drawings there were bits of greenery inside the hospital, right in the centre, and I knew I had something to do with that. It made me feel proud.

The design for Cambridge Children's Hospital. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter
The design for Cambridge Children’s Hospital. Image: Hawkins Brown and White Arkitekter

“It’s really important that children and young people are involved in designing the hospital because we’ve been in hospital at a young age and we’ve had experience. We can say we didn’t like this, so we should change it.”

Clinton Green, director at Turner & Townsend and design team project director, said: “The new hospital is a trailblazer in how integrated children’s mental and physical care is delivered. Its landmark design for a state-of-the-art healthcare facility, with its focus on sustainability and wellbeing, will set a new standard of paediatric care as an example for other hospitals across the UK and beyond to follow. The speed of reaching the major milestone of planning permission approval is testament to the expertise and collaborative efforts of the entire design team, working side by side with the Cambridge Children’s Hospital team on this important journey.”

Meanwhile, work is also continuing on plans for the Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital, also on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

Read more

Three new hospitals on Cambridge Biomedical Campus coming ‘in the next decade’

Plans for early designs for £220m Cambridge Children’s Hospital submitted

New images of Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital as it earns government and NHS backing

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