On Tuesday 9th January 2018 protesters gathered in the car park of the Belle Vue Centre in Cinderford in a display of anger and upset at the decision of Cinderford Town Council to support the ‘preferred option’ of the NHS to close Lydney and District Hospital and the Dilke Memorial Hospital and replace them with a single, smaller, new hospital.
Cinderford Town Council voted in November 2017 to support the ‘preferred option’ as set out in the public consultation document and after the full council meeting and protest in December were postponed due to heavy snow, the time finally came for the public to tell their councillors how they felt about their decision.
The protest begun at 6:30pm prior to the meeting starting at 7pm with a great turnout of around 35-40 members of the public attending to stand up to their elected representatives. Once the meeting began, members of the public entered the council chamber and were allowed 3 minutes each to speak for a total time of 15 minutes for public questions.
One protester asked “the projected cost to build this new hospital is £11 million, is that correct?” which was met by a response of “no idea” from many of the town councillors. This shows that they were not in the position to make an informed decision and raises the question, ‘did they ever read the consultation document?’ as within said document it mentioned repeatedly that the projected cost was £11 million.
Cllr Lynn Sterry, the Chair of Cinderford Town Council repeatedly threatened to shut the meeting down and refused to answer questions on topics such as the controversial Northern United site, which is the location that the council proposed for the new hospital to be built in their letter to the GCCG and GCS. The attempts to silence opposition, if anything, made the public dissatisfaction stronger as people felt more and more like their elected representatives were not representatives at all.
Zac Arnold, Press Liaison for the HOLD Campaign said “we are here tonight to express our disappointment at the decision of the council to back the ‘preferred option’ to close our community hospitals and replace them with a single, smaller, new hospital and urge them to listen to the public who stated clearly in the consultation that they are not convinced by the image of a shiny new hospital presented to them by the NHS.”
Around 20 Cinderford Parish residents attended to express their concerns and were met with little acknowledgement of these and a persistent dismissal of the issues they raised.
After Cllr Sterry declared the session had ended early during the public engagement session, Cllr Mark Turner (Independent) argued against the chair to ensure that the voices of the residents were heard. This resulted in the meeting continuing.
Arnold stated that he thought “the protest has been a success. The aim was to ensure that the public are listened to, and although the councillors refused to back down on their stance, a clear message has been sent that they are being watched by their residents now and the people of Cinderford will no longer sit in silence.”
” Unfortunately both Coleford and Lydney Town Councils have also backed the ‘preferred option’ in the consultation and despite them not being called out yet, they have not slipped off the hook. The will of the people will be heard, and our elected representatives will learn to represent. ”
” I would also like to clarify that these protests are not down to the HOLD campaign not respecting differing opinions, this is due to the blatant influencing of the decision making process and the fact that all three councils have suggested possible sites to the NHS. This is about health care for the entire Forest of Dean, this is not a tug of war competition between councils to see who can get the better deal. The lack of consideration for the rest of the Forest by these councillors upsets us and it must change. ”
No details are confirmed as to HOLD’s upcoming plans for the other two Town councils.