Northern Ireland

Uncertainty over Enniskillen ambulance station plan

Ambulance station
Image caption Ambulance station at the now-closed Erne hospital

There is uncertainty over plans to replace the ambulance station in Enniskillen after a bid for funding to start work on a new building was rejected.

Ambulances are currently based at the Erne Hospital, which closed last year and whose buildings are due to be demolished.

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service rejected a move to the new hospital.

They said it was too far out of the town and would have significantly increased response times.

It wanted to build a new station a short distance away from their present base on a derelict site on the Cornagrade Road.

A business case was given to the Department of Health (DHSPPS) and outlining planning approval for the £3.8m scheme was granted more than a year ago.

The finance minister was asked to approve funding to allow building work to begin in 2014/15 but that bid was rejected.

Public service hub

Ulster Unionist MLA, Tom Elliott, expressed his disappointment at the news: "The Department for Health deemed the ambulance station in Enniskillen as requiring financial investment to the tune of £1.9m, and placed a bid with the Department for Finance for this amount of funding.

"Regrettably, Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has rejected the bid for the funding and we now find ourselves in a position of having an ambulance station requiring attention but without the resources needed to undertake the work."

A temporary modular facility costing £400,000 will be built at the Erne Hospital to allow demolition work to begin and the plans are awaiting final planning approval.

Fermanagh District Council has plans to transform the former hospital site into a hub for a range of public services including the South West College.

The ambulance service had rejected the possibility of relocating to another part of the Erne site as unviable.

A feasibility study raised concerns about disturbing unmarked graves of the former workhouse, and the potential delays and costs this would incur.

But a DHSSPS spokesman this option was still being considered.

"In the longer term a new permanent ambulance station will be provided in the locale - most probably on the existing Erne site as part of a wider public sector campus.

"This is a priority infrastructure scheme for the department, the business case for which is well advanced.

"Once the business case is approved funding will be made available from within the department's capital allocation."

The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said they had worked with the DHSSPS to develop a business case for a modern, fit-for-purpose ambulance station in Enniskillen.

A revised business case is currently with the department for its approval and NIAS is awaiting a decision regarding approval of the case.

In response to the decision to reject funding the Department of Finance and Personnel said: "There were competing bids of more than £500m submitted by the departments as part of the 2014-15 capital reallocation exercise.

"However, due to affordability constraints the executive had to restrict its allocations to £177m.

"The executive allocated an additional £33m to DHSSPS to take forward key health infrastructure projects, including the new children's hospital, which has been universally welcomed and will of course serve sick children from all over Northern Ireland."