Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Balance Our History with the Future

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Balance Our History with the Future

Article excerpt

Byline: LEONARD FENWICK

AS A Freeman of the City and head of the city's NHS Healthcare Trust, my bias is very much towards the environment and sustainability.

In both roles, I have to endeavour to achieve a healthy balance between the historic and the new. The key is to keep the city vibrant and alive, yet with respect, understanding and a care and commitment to its past, ensure its heritage is protected and maintained. That is, after all, what helps attract people to the city.

The pounds 299m redevelopment of the Royal Victoria Infirmary hospital provides a prime example of having to strike the right note. In championing this - and the overall pounds 330m capital investment in Newcastle's hospitals - we've kept in mind the need to move forward without ignoring the past.

The RVI is a focal point for the city, a familiar landmark a short walk from its centre and an integral part of the university campus. However, we had to put sentimentality aside and acknowledge that we need to run a modern, hi-tech hospital and this was no longer possible in outdated Edwardian buildings.

Balancing the demands of the future with the legacy of the past, we've worked hard to protect, enhance and improve landmark buildings like Peacock Hall, the famous entrance to the RVI. We've had to dismantle the much-loved Edwardian conservatory, but are set to replace it with a contemporary facility that reflects its predecessor and provides a central core for the hospital.

We've employed "best in class" architectural designs and techniques to bring the old and new facilities together, allowing them to be accessed by a wider audience as an education and training location, a conference and exhibition facility as well as a crucial part of the largest hospital in the city and the busiest in the North East.

We couldn't let these fine buildings become isolated museum pieces. They need to be loved, cherished and, most of all, used.

In redeveloping the hospital and its facilities, we've asked what we can give back to the city. As well as delivering first-rate healthcare, we are keen to reach out to the community we serve. Ensuring our facilities can be used by a wider audience is one thing, but we also need to contribute as much as we can to the life and the wellbeing of Newcastle and its inhabitants. …

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