Developer in vow to honour the past in its plans for site of former Derbyshire Royal Infirmary
Derby's historic Derbyshire Royal Infirmary site is a step closer to being turned into a new "urban village" today. Chris Mallett reports.
AFTER centuries at the heart of Derby's health service, a developer has revealed plans aimed at ensuring the site of the city's first hospital remains central to its future.
Housing firm UK Regeneration (UKR) wants to build 300 much-needed homes for rent on eight acres of land between London Road and Osmaston Road that it will buy from Derby Hospitals NHS Trust.
The site is still home to the buildings of Derbyshire Royal Infirmary but, before that, it was the site of the city's first hospital, the Derbyshire General Infirmary, built between 1806 and 1810.
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UKR says it intends to retain iconic towers that formed the end of two of the Royal Infirmary's early-1900s wards.
And the trust has confirmed that statues of Florence Nightingale and Queen Victoria on the site will be retained.
UKR says its proposal would be an answer to the need for homes in the city for people who do not wish to get mortgages or cannot afford them.
And the idea is not just to put up homes, with the developer saying it also plans to include "retail, dining and other amenities" in a bid to create an "urban village" in the centre of the city.
Though UKR's detailed application for the site has yet to be decided, its proposals have been welcomed in principle by Derby City Council's leader, Paul Bayliss, who said: "We have had a presentation from UKR and we would support them because its something that will regenerate the site.
"We haven't got enough homes in the city."
UKR chief executive Jackie Sadek said that the entire scheme would be "designed for letting from the outset".
She said: "We will develop privately rented homes for people who do not want to commit to home ownership, with superior quality and designs of homes that form a community."
UKR's proposal for the land fronting London Road would form the central part of plans for the site, though controversial plans from supermarket giant Morrisons for a store on the land are also in the pipeline.
The firms marketing the site for the NHS Trust are also in discussion, with one devel-oper interested in building more homes on the Osmaston Road side of the land.
Several developers are also speaking to the marketing firms about another smaller housing development, with the total number of homes on the site set to be more than 400.
Derrick Conway, who is in charge of the scheme for the NHS trust, said: "The city council is quite insistent that it wants 400 homes on the site as a minimum. I wouldn't expect there to be 100 more than that but there could be tens."
The hospital site is of local historic interest, especially as the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary was opened by Queen Victoria in May 1891.
And its link to celebrated nurse Florence Nightingale gives it added significance.
The nurse, who was born in Florence, Italy, but was mainly raised in Derbyshire, is most famous for her role treating the wounded during the Crimean War, imposing high standards of hygiene on makeshift wards.
But she also had a role advising on a redevelopment of the Derbyshire General Infirmary in the 1860s.
That led to the famous nurse, dubbed The Lady of the Lamp, being immortalised by a statue there.
And the whole development site has now been named the Nightingale Quarter in her honour.
But there has been controversy over which of more than 70 former hospital buildings on the site will be knocked down. The trust cannot yet say which will need to be demolished for the UKR scheme as the firm's detailed planning application is not yet complete.
But Derby Civic Society, which works to protect the city's historic buildings, has long been concerned about plans to knock down Edwardian Devonshire House as part of the Morrisons scheme – something the trust confirmed yesterday.
The supermarket giant is preparing its own detailed planning application for a 6,000 sq ft store, which it expects to create about 300 jobs, with 390 car parking spaces.
Outline plans for the store were rejected by city council planners in 2010 but this was overturned by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles two years later.
Maxwell Craven, civic society vice-president and an expert on the city's historic buildings, said Devonshire House, which once provided accommodation for nurses, was "locally protected" and was an "essential part of the history of the area".
He added that he believed the Morrisons store could be another development that drew shoppers away from the city centre.
But he agreed with the new name of the site being the Nightingale Quarter.
He said: "It is important, as she influenced the design of the original hospital through correspondence with Dr William Ogle.
"The site needs redevelopment but we hope that the houses will be built to a standard that makes them look good."
The city council has already granted outline planning permission for the site, but must still make a decision on UKR's detailed planning application .
If this gets the go-ahead, UKR wants to start construction on site in November this year and plans for the first people to move into the homes by October 2015.
The homes would be a mixture of apartments and houses. Mrs Sadek said UKR was planning to develop about 20 "urban villages" around the country, of which Derby "could potentially be one of the first".
Sue James, Derby hospitals' chief executive, said: "We are particularly pleased that the size and scale of UKR's scheme accords exactly with the commitments the trust has given the city council, over the reuse of the site."