I refer to your news report, Multi-storey car park project at Watford General Hospital delayed (Watford Observer, October 10). The provision of adequate and easily accessible car parking is essential to any major hospital but absolutely essential to the viability of the trust’s proposed redevelopment scheme. The failure of the plans does not come as a surprise.

The trust is being forced to give up half of the hospital car parking spaces as the land is owned by Watford Borough Council, which requires it back to accommodate part of the Riverwell Development. This, together with the fact that the remaining part of the car park (owned by the trust) would be needed to extend the main hospital block, leaves the construction of a multi-storey car park their only answer.

The severe slope on the site will require design solutions that provide for level links to the hospital buildings and increase construction costs. Multi-storey car parks in any case impose a significant financial burden on any hospital trust and users that rarely apply to clear site new build developments.

West Herts Hospitals Trust has had no recourse other than to find a private operator that can design, build and finance the new car park. As reported, its latest board papers reveal that it has been unable to find an operator prepared to take on the risk and now consider that this route is “unlikely to be viable”. The dilemma must now rest between how much can be charged to patients, staff and visitors for parking and how to secure additional funding, together with the possible need for subsidising running costs on an ongoing basis.

In any event it is clear that this will place even more pressure on charges that are already amongst the most expensive in the country when the focus should be towards providing free parking.

The problems that the trust is facing with the viability of just building a multi-storey car park to support its main proposals can be multiplied many times if it embarks on redeveloping the hospital buildings and their infrastructures. Not only will it face similar problems caused by the site's steep gradient, it will entail even more challenges and unidentified costs associated with overbuilding under operational conditions.

Sadly it appears that the hospitals trust failed to adequately investigate its options before committing to them.

Robert Scott FCIOB

Construction Advisor to the New Hospital Campaign