A 16,000 sq ft indoor skate park at a North Wales leisure centre is being demolished to construct an emergency hospital for Covid-19 patients.
Deeside Leisure Centre was selected last week as the best site for a 250-bed temporary hospital to serve the eastern area of North Wales while the coronavirus outbreak persists.
The decision was taken on 2 April by a team of partners including Flintshire County Council, the local NHS Health Board, the ambulance service, fire service and the military, in consultation with Aura Wales as the tenant-operator of the leisure centre.
The project does not require planning permission, as it is considered permitted development under UK planning law, which stipulates that local authorities “are permitted to carry out certain developments in an emergency and on land in its ownership”.
“As Flintshire County Council own the Deeside Leisure Centre site, the development of a temporary field hospital is considered to be permitted development,” a council spokesperson said.
Work began at the weekend to demolish the large indoor wooden skate park, which will be converted into the main ward space for the hospital.
Further ward space will be provided within the existing sports hall at the leisure centre, according to a statement from the council. An ice rink, which is currently in a dry condition with no ice covering, is a third space held in reserve should more than 250 hospital beds be required.
The leisure centre was chosen as the site for the temporary hospital “because of its location and accessibility by road; its size and internal layout; the availability of utilities and facilities such as accessible toilet and washing facilities…and due to the advantage of it being able to have extended bed capacity beyond the initial 250 target if needed,” the council said in an earlier statement.
The build, led by Flintshire council, is expected to complete by the end of April in time for the anticipated peak period for Covid-19-related admissions. The hospital will be managed by the local health board.
The leisure centre will be returned to full use once the crisis is over, the council said, although it “will assess options for the skate park hall and what can be offered in this space once the emergency situation is over”.
The council is also requesting funds from the Welsh Government to reinstate equipment at the leisure centre for when it reopens.
Deeside Leisure Centre is the third temporary hospital to be announced in North Wales. Venue Cymru in Llandudno will be converted to hold 350 temporary beds, and Bangor University’s Canolfan Brailsford will provide a further 250 beds.
Colin Everett, chief executive of Flintshire County Council, said: “The council and Aura have stepped in to make Deeside Leisure Centre available as an emergency hospital to serve the communities of both Flintshire and Wrexham.
“Both councils are providing project management and logistical support to fit-out the centre in readiness for its new, temporary use.
“We will give our health board every support to have the centre ready in good time for the expected peak in demand. This is a time for partners to pull together to protect and save lives – we are proud to play our part.”