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Today, Thursday 23 June, Bolton councillors have granted planning permission for the updated plans for the Bolton College of Medical Sciences (BCMS), meaning that construction works can commence on the development located at the Royal Bolton Hospital site in Farnworth.
BCMS - a vocational and professional skills and training facility – is due to open in 2024 and is expected to transform how NHS workforces are trained in the UK, alleviate healthcare staffing pressures in Greater Manchester, and provide improved levels of care to the local community.
The planning committee’s decision to give BCMS the go-ahead follows the submission of an amended planning application to Bolton Council in March 2022. The revised plan proposed to replace the multi-storey car park included in the original design - which was approved by the planning committee in June 2019 – with surface-level parking. Apart from that, the amended application proposed no other changes to the pre-approved plans.
Today’s decision means that both BCMS and the wider Royal Bolton Hospital site will not only benefit from a state-of-the-art training facility – comprised of a teaching and learning space, a café, and a staff and service space - but also from increased parking provision, with an additional 250 car parking spaces being created on top of existing on-site hospital parking.
Additional car parking will be provided from the outset and at every stage of the development, including to cater for spaces which are displaced when construction work begins on BCMS – which is being built on the site of an existing surface car park within the Royal Bolton Hospital campus.
BCMS is a collaborative project between the University of Bolton, Bolton College, Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and Bolton Council and is understood to be the first development of its kind in the UK. It will give people a direct route into health and social care employment, and provide unrivalled training opportunities for new and existing staff by focusing on practical skills-based learning in a live hospital environment.
Over its lifetime, it will contribute £150m to the local economy and create up to 20,000 new jobs and apprenticeships.
Construction works on BCMS are due to commence in July 2022, with the first intake of students starting in September 2024.
On the outcome of the planning decision, BCMS Project Director and Managing Director of strategic consultancy Just Ask Scarlett, Mark O’Reilly comments:
“Today’s result is a major win for the Bolton community as it unlocks the construction of a facility that will bring countless healthcare and occupational benefits to the area, including better job prospects, opportunities for existing healthcare staff to upskill, and an overall £150m boost to the local economy.
“Its impact will also be felt beyond our town - we expect BCMS to become a blueprint for other NHS trusts nationwide and transform how NHS workforces are recruited and trained across the country. Bolton will lead by example on how the UK can address the NHS staffing crisis and attract more people to healthcare professions.
“We thank all the parties that supported us in achieving this result, especially our colleagues at Bolton Hospital, Bolton Council, Wilmott Dixon, Box Clever and Edgeplan, and look forward to focusing all our efforts on construction.”
Professor George E Holmes DL, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Bolton, says:
“This is game-changing news for Bolton and we are delighted that this ambitious and exciting plan has been approved.
“This vocational and professional skills and training facility will transform how NHS and social care workforces are trained in the UK, producing a new generation of health and social care professionals at a time when they have never been needed more.
“Once open next year, it will give people a direct route into health and social care employment, and provide unrivalled training opportunities for existing hospital staff to upskill and further their careers.
“It is a historic moment for our town and the University making the first in a series of steps towards a full medical school.”
Annette Walker, Director of Finance at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, adds:
“We’re really thrilled that planning permission has been granted today and that our collective aim to bring this new college to Bolton can become a reality.
“Bolton College of Medical Sciences will help us develop our existing staff and provide new routes for those who want a future in healthcare to expand their skills. It really is an exciting project both for us as an organisation and the whole town.”