A PETITION to overturn a council committee’s decision to reject plans for a new life-saving baby unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital has attracted thousands of signatures.

Started by mum Niamh Hocking yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, October 10), it has already got the support of more than 5,000 people.

It comes after councillors on Cheshire West and Chester Council’s (CWaC) planning committee narrowly voted against the application for the new £2.4 million neonatal unit on Tuesday evening.

The reason they gave was that it represented a “significant adverse impact on residential amenity”.

One resident of Bache Hall Estate, which backs onto the proposed site, claimed the new facility would block sunlight to her garden.

The committee’s decision has sparked outrage on social media and on the petition page at www.change.org/p/chester-overturn-the-decision-to-reject-neonatal-expansion

Petition starter Niamh said on the page: “The countess of Chester’s neonatal unit is a small unit who do an incredible job saving the lives of premature babies and helping parents cope with these life changing situations.

“The Babygrow Appeal raised £2.4 million pounds to fund a new build, to extend this unit in order to continue the incredible work.

“The proposal has now been rejected because one resident believes the new build will overshadow her house. An extension to save the lives of babies is being rejected because one person’s back garden view may be altered. This is wrong.

“This build is needed. For sick babies, vulnerable babies, babies like my son. For vulnerable parents, scared parents, parents like me.

“Please sign and help have this decision reconsidered. This will improve the chances and lives of sick babies and their parents.”

Dozens of people have left passionate comments, including many parents whose tots’ lives were saved by staff on the neonatal unit.

One mum wrote: “The NICU at the Countess saved my premature twins. I’ll be forever endeared. This build will help them save so many more babies. How can anyone even think to oppose it?”

And another added: “This shouldn’t even be a conversation to be had, babies should always come first, shame on anyone who doesn’t believe this.”

The existing neonatal unit was built in 1974 and its design has become out-dated.

The planned new building would not only be packed with life-saving technology, it would also focus on providing space, privacy and as much comfort as possible for tots and their families.

It is also said to be the first unit in the country to be designed with “family integrated care”.

Cash for the new unit was raised over almost four years by the hospital’s fundraising team under the banner of the Babygrow Appeal.

Chair of the appeal committee, Leila Bibby, told The Standard they were overwhelmed by the community's response.

She said: "We are delighted that the petition to overturn the Planning Committee decision has received so much support.

"The messages on the petition demonstrate the amazing support that the new unit has by the community. There are some very heart warming messages of thanks to the hospital staff who helped families through such a traumatic part of their lives."

She added: "The reason why I and so many people raised funds for this new unit was because we want to have the best unit available for babies and their families and this new unit represents a real positive step for our local community which is why we are so disappointed."

  • The following councillors voted to reject the plans at the committee meeting:

Gill Watson (Newton, Lab) – also had casting vote as chairman

Jill Houlbrook (Upton, Con)

Carol Gahan (Blacon, Lab)

Chris Whitehurst (Malpas, Con)

Keith Board (Great Boughton, Con)

  • The following councillors voted in favour of the plans:

David Armstrong (Winsford, Swanlow and Dene, Lab)

Peter Rooney (Ledsham and Manor, Lab)

Norman Wright (Marbury, Con)

Tom Blackmore (Winsford Over and Verdin, Lab)

Don Beckett (Winsford Over and Verdin, Lab)