Old training college to be sold off to fund new ambulance centre
Health bosses are planning to build a new ambulance station in Chippenham, it was announced this week.
The Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) is hoping to sell a derelict training college at the site and the land surrounding the station on Malmesbury Road to a developer.
The existing station will then be demolished and rebuilt, and GWAS will own the new building.
GWAS interim chief executive Ken Wenman said the new station may well house more facilities.
He said: “The current Chippenham station is at the end of its economic life. A new station will benefit staff and patients through improved facilities for crews, training rooms and will be built to the latest specifications to reduce maintenance and running costs.
“We are also keen to explore the possibilities of providing additional facilities at the new station – such as consulting rooms for other healthcare providers and other public services such as a pharmacy.
“The facilities next to the station – the former Wiltshire Ambulance Service HQ buildings and the former training college – are surplus to requirements. The decision to dispose of the site and reinvest the funds into frontline patient care – including the development of a modern ambulance station – is part of the trust’s wider estates strategy agreed in May 2011.”
But some have voiced concern at the plans, with retired ambulanceman Dennis Overton deeming the move “a disgrace”.
Mr Overton, 73, of Hilperton, said: “It’s asset-stripping. The training college is a beautiful building, but it’s been boarded up for the last five years. “It costs £44,000 a year to pay the rates for the college, and GWAS also spends £154,000 a year leasing Jenner House. It’s just ridiculous.”
But Victoria Eld, head of communications at GWAS, said times have changed when it comes to training new paramedics.
“It’s all done differently now, and training is done in a different place,” she said.
“The training college is boarded up and redundant.”
Signs proclaiming the site is for sale will go up next week.
The current Chippenham station opened in 1971, before ambulance services became part of the NHS and were still run by local councils.
Around 50 staff operate from the station, most – about 40 – being frontline emergency response teams.
There are also two Patient Transport Service staff as well as a five-strong team running the trust’s central stores, which is based at the station.
In 2011-12, the trust responded to more than 13,000 emergency calls in and around Chippenham, many of these attended by staff and vehicles operating out of Chippenham station.
In 2008 GWAS proposed relocating the ambulance station to an industrial unit in Bath Road and selling off the Malmesbury Road ambulance buildings to a developer for housing. The plans were dropped a year later as GWAS said the economic climate was not good enough.
Mr Wenman said: “Our modelling shows that Chippenham station is a good location, supported by standby points. “The decision to upgrade the station represents an investment in improved patient care.”
Staff based in the offices on the Malmesbury Road site will temporarily relocate to the trust’s Jenner House HQ.