Former paymaster-general joins row over £180m project planned for outskirts of city.
Former government private finance initiative chief Geoffrey Robinson has stepped into a dispute over the siting of a private finance initiative hospital in Coventry.

Robinson, MP for Coventry North West, is objecting to a Walsgrave Hospital NHS Trust plan for a PFI hospital on the edge of the city.

He believes the £180m hospital, which has government approval to proceed in the second wave of PFI ventures, should be built on the Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital city-centre site.

Supporters of this site have until the end of March to persuade West Midlands Regional Health Authority to choose it over Walsgrave.

Robinson said he had contacted Tarmac, among other contractors, to check the viability of a city-centre PFI project and had been told that the deal would work.

It would involve the redevelopment of the Walsgrave Hospital site near the M6, which the Walsgrave trust owns, into housing once the city-centre hospital was finished.

Robinson said: "There are some basic reasons why the city-centre site is better. There is better access by road, as there is less traffic circulation and movement in the city centre than near the M6.

"It's also tremendously important in terms of improving the city centre. It would become a self-sustaining development, providing hundreds of jobs for people there." Robinson rejected the trust's claims that there would be severe logistical problems in redeveloping the city-centre site.

The trust says the advantage of building near the M6 is that spare land can be used while an existing hospital nearby remains open. Once the new hospital is finished, patients can be transferred, it says.

The trust claims that this will be impossible on the smaller Coventry & Warwickshire site as a hospital will have to be demolished before work on its replacement can begin.

This would mean patients being housed in temporary buildings while the hospital was finished. But Robinson claimed that there were doubts over whether spare land at Walsgrave could be developed.

Robinson also rejected trust claims that the scheme was not viable because it would necessitate the compulsory purchase of large areas of land.

The trust has also claimed that picking the city-centre site would delay procurement by six months.

Robinson said: "I don't believe there would be a delay, but surely taking six extra months to get something that will be there for 50 years right is the correct thing to do." The Walsgrave trust is planning to advertise for bidders to redevelop its site by the end of March.