PATIENTS at Musgrove Park Hospital will soon find it much easier to park after plans for a second multi-storey car park on site were approved.

The site in Taunton was one of 40 hospitals which were to be rebuilt, enhanced or replaced as part of the new hospitals programme (NHP) instituted by Boris Johnson’s government in late-2020.

Patients and staff can currently use the Cedars multi-storey car park, operated by Q-Park, which opened at the southern edge of the hospital campus in October 2006.

The Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, teased plans for a second multi-storey car park in early-February, providing hundreds of additional spaces for staff, patients, carers and visitors.

Somerset Council has now given these plans the go-ahead, meaning construction could begin before the end of the year.

Delivering a new car park is part of the conditions for the new £87m surgical centre, which is currently under construction following the Treasury’s approval of the final business case in January 2021.

The new car park will be built at the south-east corner of the hospital site, replacing the current Duchess 2 car park (near the day surgery) which is predominantly used by staff.

It will provide up to 355 new spaces (including 59 disabled spaces and 140 spaces which have been lost through previous stages of the hospital’s redevelopment) and include a number of specially commissioned public artworks.

The trust has said “at least 220 spaces” will be made available for staff, helping to prevent parking on the residential streets immediately around the hospital and in the wider Galmington area.

During construction, staff spaces will be provided within a number of other sites in Taunton within walking distance of the hospital – including 65 spaces behind for the former police station on Shuttern, 20 on the old bus station site on Tower Street and 40 spaces within the wider hospital site.

The construction of the car park will free up other land within the hospital complex for future redevelopment, allowing different departments to be enhanced or expanded to meet local demand.

The car park will be accessible on foot or by bicycle using the existing cycle route on Hoveland Lane, which extends to the south along Galmington Road and runs all the way to the eastern edge of the ongoing Orchard Grove housing development.

The plans were approved through the delegated power of the council’s planning officers, rather than a public decision by its planning committee west (which handles major applications within the former Somerset West and Taunton area).

Major projects officer Simon Fox said: “This proposal meets an identified need by the hospital trust for the benefit of staff, patients and visitors and represents a well-considered proposal that safeguards ecology, the townscape skyline, the highway network, considers sustainability and surface water drainage matters carefully and safeguards the amenity of local residents.”

Construction of the new car park is expected to begin in a matter of months, with the trust expected to publish details of any disruption for patients in due course.