‘Overwhelming’ support for an online petition calling for a new hospital in Horsham has even surprised the campaigner who set it up.
Chris Ward, 26, of Horsham, launched his petition for A&E services at the soon to be disused Novartis site last Friday (February 28).
It has since attracted more than 900 signatures, re-igniting one of the longest-running campaigns in the area.
Mr Ward told the County Times: “It has been quite an overwhelming experience. I was really surprised with the positive reaction it has got.
“I’ve read comments saying maybe it is not the biggest site, but if they say for example that site isn’t appropriate but another is, that is just as good as far as I’m concerned.”
Last week, the County Times reported that the pharmaceutical giant will cease operations at its Horsham site later this year.
Now residents are having their say by supporting Mr Ward’s proposal for the site in their hundreds.
Mr Ward said: “My main concern was to raise awareness of it and I think it has done that.
“I haven’t really thought about it beyond that but if it starts something that is brilliant.”
Mr Ward said he has written to Horsham MP Francis Maude and Crawley MP Henry Smith as the campaign has gathered momentum.
He added: “100,000 (signatures) is the limit for getting it to be debated in parliament, but that might be ambitious!
“But the fact that there are nearly 1000 people out there who agree with me is a great feeling.”
The online petition has attracted vast interest on social media and provoked debate across a number of platforms.
Martin Peters said: “Surely some of the existing buildings on the Novartis site could be converted into a small hospital, it would not need to specialise in any major areas, but the people of Horsham would at last have a local hospital for A&E and maternity, etc.
“The site has good transport access, plenty of parking, and would not cause too much traffic congestion.”
Facebook users took to the County Times’ page to discuss the issue.
Erin Lewis wrote: “We need a local hospital to have babies in as living just out side Horsham, driving to East Surrey is a long way to go... as is Haywards Heath and Worthing!”
Michael Goodman wrote: “Great idea! Complete no brainer. Perfect site for access and infrastructure. Facility badly needed as is already apparent.”
Richard Smallridge wrote: “Great idea with all the building work around it’s mad we don’t have a hospital.”
Plans for a development north of Horsham, which were exclusively revealed in the County Times in January 2012, originally included the possibility of a new A&E hospital. However, Liberty Property Trust’s proposals for land north of the A264 now contain a new business park and 2,500 homes - but no new hospital.
At a meeting last year, the heads of the local clinical commissioning group ruled out a new hospital for the town, saying that while a suitable site might be available, the funding to operate it was not.
Mr Maude has been championing a new hospital for the town for some years, while the County Times has also campaigned for such a hospital.
To view Mr Ward’s online petition, visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/61526