NEWTON Abbot's back-to-the-drawing board hospital site is to be at Jetty Marsh.

Massively rebuffed by public opinion over its attempt to build the new £12m hospital at Cricketfield Road, Teignbridge Primary Care Trust has been forced into having second thoughts.

Its fresh proposal, which includes a new access road, was announced on Tuesday at the completion of technical tests on the Jetty Marsh site.

The rethink brings the proposed hospital, which will have health and social care under one roof, nearer the town centre, on land owned by Watts Blake Bearne. It is screened by trees on one side.

The trust has appointed lawyers ready to take the purchase forward as health officials say the present owners have indicated a willingness to sell.

Pam Smith, chief executive of the trust, said: 'We are putting in the planning application because this site rivals our original preferred site at Cricketfield, for suitability for a hospital.

'We know that the Jetty Marsh area is more acceptable to local people than a central location, and this site is more accessible than the Jetty Marsh site we had first identified and evaluated, which we felt offered less than Cricketfield,' Mrs Smith said.

If outline planning permission was granted by Teignbridge District Council, further negotiations would need to be completed before detailed plans could be drawn up.

'We won't be building for some time yet,' Mrs Smith went on. 'There will be about two years before building work can start and the construction is likely to take another 18 months or two years.

'If we are granted outline planning permission, we will then have to complete negotiations for purchasing the land, put a business case to the NHS, and then tender for building partners.'

Technical reports on the geology, trees, traffic impact and costings showed that it would be feasible to build the hospital on this site, Mrs Smith confirmed.

She did, however, say it had some disadvantages. 'We will need to build road access and there are some enabling works to do before we can start building.

'This will take money away from the hospital building itself,' she said. 'It won't be straightforward, but we will be working to overcome any difficulties so that we can secure a new hospital for Newton Abbot.

'On the plus side, our consultant engineers have advised us that the site is high enough above the flood plain and the previous use of the site has not left it contaminated. They have advised us which parts of the land are best to build on, given its previous history.'

The outline planning application will indicate the chosen site, the access on and off site, and the overall volume of the proposed hospital building.

Before commissioning detailed plans of the hospital health chiefs are waiting to see if outline planning approval will be granted and if the site can be afforded.

However the trust is keen for the design to be attractive. 'Although we have to get value for money as part of the NHS, we also want the design to be sympathetic with the surroundings, to serve the community well and to provide a therapeutic outlook for patients,' Mrs Smith said.

'We have had a survey of the tree belt and we will undertake to look after the trees and to maintain and improve the screening. We would propose planting native trees and ground cover and to landscape the whole site.'

Cllr Mike Hocking, Newton Abbot's mayor, issued a statement wishing the health authority 'good speed,' with this new proposal. He hoped that the hospital would be up and running as soon as possible, 'bearing in mind that the health authority is closing wards in the existing Newton Abbot Hospital, which is obviously against the best interests of the people in Newton Abbot and the immediate district'.

He welcomed the fact that the trust had chosen a new site at Jetty Marsh, and noted the fact that it was nearer the town centre than the one originally planned for the area.

'Obviously I appreciate that the public, in which I include myself, was not happy with the original site at Cricketfield and am glad a site more acceptable to residents has been identified.

'As mayor I appreciate that use of the existing site needs to be very carefully considered once the new hospital is up and running so that we have a 'win-win,' situation for all Newton Abbot residents.'

Cllr Reg Wills, in whose ward the new site is, said he was very pleased with the proposal. It was 'an ideal location,' for the hospital bearing in mind transport and accessibility. Although you could never predict anything he could see no obstacle to it going through planning procedures.