Councils across Wales given emergency powers to support NHS with new coronavirus field hospitals
Councils are being given new powers to support the NHS and increase hospital capacity as Wales responds to the coronavirus pandemic.
Housing and Local Government Minister Julie James has introduced emergency permitted development rights, which will allow local authorities to change the use of buildings or create temporary structures on their land without planning permission.
The new powers mean councils can use leisure centres as temporary hospitals if they are needed to prevent or control an emergency.
It comes after Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board confirmed it had identified three sites in North Wales.
Councils in Wales can now use their land for developments for the pandemic response – planning law altered https://t.co/9uFM9KefBa
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The minister said: “Local authorities in Wales are doing an excellent job of responding to rapidly changing situations and it is vital that we allow them to meet their wide-ranging responsibilities quickly.
“Relaxing the usual planning requirements allows local authorities to take swift action to respond to local need.
“It is of course only right they plan for the emergency but by staying home we can help to avoid these plans becoming a reality.”
Under the permitted rights, any temporary structures must be removed and the land restored to its previous condition within 12 months of the development starting.
Alternatively, planning permission would have to be sought for any continuing use.
Meanwhile, the region’s health board has been progressing plans to increase capacity to care for patients with COVID-19.
Bed numbers have been increased at all three main hospitals in North Wales to provide care for those most in need.
Work is also underway to develop three field hospitals away from hospital sites to further increase the number of beds available, although the locations have yet to be confirmed.
In a statement released on Monday, a Betsi Cadwaladr spokesperson said: “We are now working with our partners to finalise plans for these locations, and will share further information on them in the coming days.
“We have a phased escalation plan in place to significantly increase the number of beds for our most poorly patients over the coming weeks, with plans in place to increase our capacity of ventilated beds.
“We are also progressing opportunities to establish additional capacity within all of our hospitals.
“For example, construction work has already begun to install an additional 80 beds at Glan Clwyd Hospital, using void space left as part of the hospital’s recent redevelopment, which would be ready to use at the end of April.”
They added: “At the same time, primary and community care services are working hard to keep people well and out of crisis.
“This will ensure that our specialist acute services are available for those people who need them.”
By Liam Randall – BBC Local Democracy Reporter (more here on the LDR scheme)
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