Planning permission has finally been lodged for a helipad at Cork University Hospital (CUH), almost 15 years since its original landing site was decommissioned.
The HSE has also sought permission to develop a new two-storey staff car park to replace 164 parking spaces set be lost as a result of the project, which is earmarked for the site of the staff car- park in the northeast of the hospital’s Wilton campus, and a new pedestrian bridge over its internal ring road.
The publication of the planning application brings to an end, a long, drawn-out process linked to the reinstatement of a helipad landing site at one of the country’s largest hospitals.
Helicopters transferring patients to Cork have in recent years been landing on nearby sports pitches, from where patients are then transferred by ambulance the short distance by road to CUH.
Pending a positive planning decision, it is understood that work could start on site next year.
Following a protracted process, which included several inputs from medical experts and specialist aviation consultants, a suitable site was identified in the north-eastern corner of the hospital campus. However, it had to undergo a detailed site evaluation process which included further extensive consultation with medical experts and the Irish Aviation Authority.
It is understood the site complies with strict clinical requirements and aviation regulations and is suitable to accommodate the Coast Guard’s S-92 search-and- rescue helicopter and the Irish Air Corps’ Augusta Westland 139 and Eurocopter 135 aircraft.
Hopes were raised two years ago that construction was imminent when €1.8m in funding for the project was secured. However, it has taken until now for planning to be sought.
The planning notice published yesterday shows the HSE wants to build a helipad featuring an elevated connection to the hospital’s existing emergency department. It will require the demolition of the hospital’s existing boiler house chimney and the construction of a new two-storey staff car park on the west side of the hospital campus.
The existing staff car park will be redesigned to cut the number of spaces from 288 to 124, to provide two new separate parking areas to the east and west of the proposed helipad, each with separate vehicular access.
It also will require the regrading of the existing car park to the west of the in-patient adult mental health unit, including the removal of all 143-space surface car parking there to facilitate the construction of a new 306-space car park.
CUH’s original helipad was decommissioned in 2003 to facilitate a massive redevelopment of its emergency department.