MULTI-storey car park plans at Dorset Council Hospital have been approved against the recommendations of planning officers - to the delight of clinicians and MPs.

Councillors unanimously voted to approve plans to build the car park as part of a £62.5 million government investment to expand key services at the hospital under the National Health Infrastructure plan.

The multi-storey car park forms part of wider plans to expand the emergency department and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as well as establishing an Integrated Care Hub.

Planning bosses had advised members of Dorset Council's Northern Area Planning Committee to refuse the car park due to its 'size, positioning and massing'.

But following a lengthy debate about whether the social and economic benefits of the expansion 'clearly and significantly outweighed the visual and landscape impact of the size of the car park on the surrounding area' the plans were given the go ahead.

Director of strategy, transformation and partnerships at DCH, Nick Johnson, is thrilled the application has been approved.

He said: "We are delighted with the decision and very grateful to the local councillors for so carefully considering our application and recognising the importance of this development for our hospital and local people.

"In coming to their decision they recognised that the social and economic benefits of the first phase of our site development plans significantly outweigh any harm to local heritage and landscape.

"We’d also like to commend the planning officers for their professional and balanced advice.

"We are really excited to now be able to forge ahead with our plans to build the multi-storey car park to free up space on the site for expanding essential clinical services and creating a hospital fit for the future for years to come.

"I’d also like to take this opportunity to pass on a huge thank you to all the local people and our local partners who showed their support for our development plans in the run up to the committee meeting.

"Over 3,000 local residents signed the online Register of Support and many people took the time to write comments of support which were really heartening to receive."

Chris Loder, MP for west Dorset, wrote a letter to be read out in the committee meeting highlighting the key benefits of approving the application, including the need to cater for an increase in patient numbers at the hospital.

After hearing it had been approved, he said: "I think this is excellent news. The fact that the council unanimously voted in favour for this application to be passed means they clearly took on board all of the points I made in my letter and agreed with them.

"I'm thankful this has been approved."

Richard Drax, MP for south Dorset, said: "I'm absolutely delighted that the hospital has been given the go ahead for this very important improvement which will lead to great benefits to all the patients who use it.

"This has been a massive team effort and I want to congratulate everyone who was involved in getting this approval granted."