Haven Hospices is one of the best-loved charities in south Essex.
Its adult hospice, Fair Havens, in Chalkwell, has cared for more than 25,000 patients since opening in 1983, and its children’s hospice, Little Havens, in Daws Heath Road, Thundersley, looks after 150 families from across Essex.
The charity was criticised after a failed two-year bid to build a new adult hospice on green belt land off Belton Way West, Leigh.
It has now signed a deal with Bellway Homes to include a new £16.5million facility in the redevelopment of the former Ekco factory site, in Southend.
The hospices’ chief executive, Andy Smith, answers our questions...
Why do you want to build this new hospice?
It’s about ensuring there is good quality hospice care for this community in years to come, in a purpose- built hospice with modern facilities designed for the needs of people using it and to develop good community services to care for people in their homes.
We are excited by it and think it will be great for the local community.
Why do you want to build it on the former Ekco factory site?
It’s one of the 212 places we looked at before and it scored highly by our criteria.
It’s in the centre of the community, it’s near Priory Park, it gives the opportunity for a therapeutic environment on-site and it gives space for a modern, purpose- built hospice. It’s a very good location from that point of view.
The Belton WayWest site was on green belt land overlooking the sea. Can the new site, near the A127 and next to a new housing estate, recreate that kind of peaceful environment?
It’s one of the challenges we put to our architects.
We are very pleased with the designs. It’s a crescent, which will provide shelter from the noise of the road.
We will have therapeutic gardens and views across the sports fields.
Also there has been something about people in a hospice wanting to see life going on. Being near a housing estate and hearing traffic, going to the pub and enjoying a meal, it’s a really rich environment and that makes it an ideal place for the hospice.
You’ve described the concept of the new facility as being based around the building “as a whole”. What does that mean?
Day care is a very important part of a person’s journey when they are diagnosed with a life-limiting condition.
It’s an opportunity for them to have a clinic, but also to explore how the condition is going to affect their lives.
We are expecting to have more people to attend day care and more people to have out-patient treatments at the hospice, rather than at the hospital.
In our current hospice, Fair Havens, in Second Avenue, day care is in a separate building, across from the car park. There is a psychological barrier in crossing that. Different stages of a condition can have different barriers.
All services will be from the same building at the new hospice.
If you are familiar with the building and get to know it, you are a lot less likely to have a fear factor when moving in.
How much will it cost?
We project it will cost about £16.5million.
How much have you got towards it?
We have got £3million towards the cost of the project so far.
That means there is a long way to go, but it’s a good start.
How much have you spent already?
Our most recent accounts show we have spent £1.24million on the newFair Havens Hospice project.
Of this, less than £100,000 was spent on surveys specific to the Belton Way site.
We spent many months understanding exactly what a new hospice would need, how it would feel and work especially for patients and their families, particularly given the additional services the new hospice will provide.
These features have all been directly incorporated into the design for a new Fair Havens Hospice on the Ekco site, and enabled us to prepare quickly for the planning process.
How will you find the rest of the money?
We will approach trusts and grant-making bodies for relatively large sums of money, then we will have a fundraising drive once the building work starts.
What will happen to the old hospice in Second Avenue?
Eventually, it will be sold. The money we get will go into the project.
How will patients be moved into the new hospice when it is built?
We do know we have to manage that carefully. When the time comes we will have the benefit of asking other hospices, such as Farleigh, in Chelmsford, how they went about that process.
Was the reputation of the charity dented by the Belton Way West project?
We understand and accept fully there were some people in the community who were upset with the proposals and felt very strongly we shouldn’t have put it forward.
We balance that with many people who did support our proposals. We struggle to provide for what we want to at the moment.
We face questions on a daily basis about who we can admit to the hospice, so we embarked on the project. We looked at more than 200 sites and the only one which was available was Belton Way West.
Do you have to rebuild your relationship with the public?
We know some people were very upset and we are looking to build the relationship again. There were many people who were supportive.
Subject to planning permission, we hope the project becomes something the community can get behind.
Did you see a drop in fundraising?
We heard some people say they wouldn’t support us anymore, but haven’t seen a drop in fundraising. That’s a testament to the local community and the ongoing support we have had.
Why did you persist in the face of so much opposition?
We know there were some people who were very upset, but there were many who were very supportive.
The other aspect is there was no other site available and we thought doing nothing was not an option. The situation we faced in terms of need for hospice care was only going to increase in the future. We felt we couldn’t ignore that need and do nothing.
Looking back, would you have done anything differently and what have you learned from the experience?
We would all like to have been here when we started off. We have learnt people can feel very passionately about things and passions and feelings run deep and at different points in life, different things are important.