THE former Bridgwater Hospital could be returned to public use as a training centre after a £20m bid submitted to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund by Sedgemoor District Council.

The bid for the Grade II listed building, which has lain empty since 2014, was also presented on behalf of a range of partners and it could be turned into a Training Centre of Excellence for Health and Social Care.

The ambition for the site is to create a wholly integrated skills development and learning academy to attract, retain, grow, and upskill our key workers in the care sector. The objectives for the project are to:

• Grow and upskill the local labour market making Somerset an attractive place to work in the Health and Social Care sector.

• Address local health and care inequalities through a more professionally trained sector, which also helps create more capacity in primary care with more people being supported at home.

• Drive innovation in Health and Social Care service delivery and training by encouraging tech-business co-location at the site.

In tackling a complex listed building which has decayed over the years, further regeneration benefits are also expected to be realised:

• Saving a listed building in highly visible and prominent location next to the river.

• Add value to the wider, £23.2m Town Deal Investment programme in Bridgwater which includes major public realm improvement to Salmon parade in front of the old hospital.

• Drive further footfall to the town centre

• Creation of new jobs and potential for key-worker housing to be included.

The bid has been endorsed by Bridgwater and West Somerset MP, Ian Liddell Grainger, who “was giving the project full and unqualified support”.

He said: “I believe it represents an inspired use for a building which was crying out to be repurposed.

“Not merely will it offer an opportunity to tidy up this part of the town it will deliver many long-term benefits in terms of training and standards of care to a large segment of the local population.”

The bid was submitted on behalf of a range of partners: Bridgwater and Taunton College, Bridgwater Town Council Integrated Care System, NHS Foundation Trust, Public Health Somerset, Sedgemoor District Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council, Somerset Association of Care Providers, Somerset County Council – Adult Social Care; Children Social Care; Integrated Living Service, University of West of England.

A spokesperson for Sedgemoor District Council, on behalf of all the partners, said: “We are proud to have brought together this joint bid which has the potential to deliver significant Levelling Up benefits in communities across Somerset.

If the bid is successful, work could start on remodelling the old hospital as early as Spring 2023 subject to planning approval and further consultation will take place later this year. Government is expected to announce successful bids in the autumn of 2022.