The strong feelings expressed by the communities of Machynlleth and the Dyfi Valley about the felling of the trees at Machynlleth Hospital have also been keenly felt by colleagues here in Powys Teaching Health Board.
Reflecting back on recent events it is clear there is more we could have done to discuss with the community the need for this work, and the plans for the future environment at the hospital.
Our natural environment is so important to all of us here in Powys. So, we share everyone’s disappointment that the plans to ensure Machynlleth Hospital is a facility we can all be proud of have included the sad but unavoidable need to remove trees from the front of the hospital.
The improvements to the hospital are long awaited and long overdue. And they have faced a number of delays, which we know have been frustrating for everyone who wants this vital work to move forward.
Our team has worked hard to overcome these challenges so that we can move forward with this important development.
It may be helpful to outline some of these challenges.
The entrance to the hospital site must meet the stringent safety standards for its location on a busy trunk road. This does mean that the road entrance needs to be widened.
The building itself is old, as is the drainage and other infrastructure. Tree roots are contributing to the problems the hospital faces. Major improvements are needed to meet modern building standards.
Essential changes simply would not be possible without the loss of the cherry and magnolia trees. We know that this is such a difficult balance to achieve, when the trees have been so loved and the hospital improvements are so needed.
We heard very strong views about the removal of the trees.
I would like to stress that an ecologist was on site throughout the tree works to ensure no nesting was taking place. This also was why this difficult work needed to take place now, as nesting could not be disturbed and we do need to begin work at the hospital this spring.
I can also make some important commitments about working together for the future.
No further trees are being felled. We will work under the guidance of the Project Team and their specialist consultants to manage or relocate the current trees on the hospital site.
And, listening to community feedback, we have stored the remaining wood so that it can be used for a fitting legacy project. Through our Arts in Health approach this will be one of many projects where we will work with the local community and local artists to create vibrant connections between the hospital, its staff, and the communities it is here to serve.
So, alongside these challenges we also have some great opportunities to work together with the community on the biodiversity and sustainability plan at the heart of the new hospital development.
We are reducing the overall carbon footprint of the site through a range of measures including improved insulation, photovoltaics and car charging points.
Our ecology plan includes a number of replacement trees and additional landscaping across the hospital site.
It also includes plans to increase biodiversity: the protection of waxcap mushrooms identified during our ecology survey, nesting and roosts for house martins, house sparrows, starlings, swifts and bats; and habitat measures for invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles and hedgehogs.
And a new sensory garden will not only provide a healthy space for patients and visitors, but will also provide am important opportunity to work with local school children. Understandably the coronavirus pandemic has meant we have not been able to work with schools in the way we would have wished during 2020. When this virus permits, we look forward to creative conversations about native species, bamboo planting and bug hotels.
As the coronavirus restrictions ease we look forward to arranging events and activities with the communities to create an exciting development that can play its full part in the health and wellbeing of the area. More information will be able available later this spring from our website at https://pthb.nhs.wales/find/broddyfi and we are also planning a regular newsletter to keep local communities engaged and informed.