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Best Hospital Car Park: Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester

British Parking Awards 2023

01 October 2023
Lucas Fernandes, Ivo Demirov and Vaso Vaina (Stripe Consulting), Tristan Chapman (Dorset County Hospital), Iain Saunders, Vikki Town, Beth Whitehouse, Laura Pocknell, Guy Kippen and Paul Thatcher (Prime), Brannan Coady (YourParkingSpace, category sponsor), 
Harry Noakes (Willmott Dixon) and Mark Steel
Dorset County Hospital
Dorset County Hospital


The Dorset County Hospital’s car park plan was integral to its strategic estates masterplan, with the delivery of every project planned for the next 10 years resting on the success of this parking scheme.

With too few parking spaces for patients, staff and visitors, Dorset County Hospital was congested and finding a space was difficult. Survey results found that staff, patients and visitors were suffering from stress and anxiety due to parking difficulties. This was impacting staff recruitment and retention and affecting wellbeing. Nearby residents were complaining about hospital users parking on the surrounding roads as it was too difficult to park on site.

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust worked with Prime, a property developer specialising in the health sector, to find a solution. Prime’s proposal was to build a 654-space multi-storey on a sloping site next to a conservation area that also overlooked an Area of Natural Beauty that surrounded half the town.

The car park was funded by the trust with Prime and not by the NHS. This meant money and resources were not taken away from patient care. The car park has enabled the implementation of a wider hospital masterplan – part of the government’s New Hospitals Programme – without impacting the hospital and its services. Freeing up space on site allows the trust to extend its Emergency Department and Critical Care Unit. It also enables the trust to provide key worker housing to help recruit and retain staff, an integrated care hub, a new and improved entrance and a hospital support centre for non-clinical staff.

The car park was delivered by main contractor Willmott Dixon working with architect Stripe Consulting and HUBER car park systems. The multi-storey has a steel frame with in-situ concrete deck built around a vertical circulation module (VCM) approach with precast stair cores and retaining walls.

The project includes 56 dedicated disabled parking spaces located immediately outside the main hospital entrance. The car park is managed 24/7 by the hospital security team. There is full CCTV coverage throughout the car park along with disabled call points on every floor. The car park is lit with low-energy LED fittings which are light and movement sensitive to avoid disruption through light spill and energy waste. Anti-jump measures include fully enclosed levels and a top floor minimum height of 2.1 metres with an inward cranked wire system to deter climbing.

From the outset the aim was to use to the façade to support the hospital’s Arts in Hospital charitable organisation. The theme chosen by the trust’s staff was landscapes and landmarks that illustrated the hospital’s catchment area. The images were selected via a public vote open to staff, hospital users and the wider community. The top three choices were Portland Bill, Durdle Door and Corfe Castle, which have been captured on perforated metal panels on the car park’s exterior. A green corridor has been created around the car park, planted with hedgerows and wildflowers, to provide a buffer zone between vehicles and wildlife. Bird boxes within the gabion wall around the car park. hedgehog nesting boxes and insect-friendly foliage have also been planted.

Forming a key part of Prime’s Sustainability Strategy, biodiversity net gain is an approach that aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than beforehand. Consequently, as well as creating much needed parking infrastructure, the project has also enhanced the local environment by delivering a biodiversity net gain of 15% through on-site improvements to landscape areas and off-site woodland creation in the local area.

New site-wide barriers and an ANPR pay-on-exit system were put in place, managed by the Trust. The change from a pay and display system to an ANPR system meant certainty around parking duration, removing additional stress and the need to issue penalty notices to staff, patients and visitors.
Increased disabled parking, cycle access and new dedicated motorcycle parking also contribute to this once-in-a-generation opportunity to reconfigure the hospital in line with the masterplan.

Not having had a motorcycle parking area before, the project includes a dedicated motorcycle shelter. The need for the shelter was identified following a staff consultation event ahead of submitting the planning application. Within the hospital estate, cycle lanes were included to make it easier for cyclists to navigate around the hospital site, especially in areas where there might be issues such as by parking barriers.

In addition to the parking improvements, the project involved implementing wayfinding improvements across the whole hospital site. This included a new dedicated pedestrian route between the MSCP and the hospital entrance. Within the MSCP, dedicated pedestrian walkways were put in place along each floor. The stairwell lobbies were oversized to ensure users have a safe and comfortable waiting space around lifts and stairways.

Contractor Willmott Dixon had office space on-site to work from which provided comfort in all working conditions. Following completion, this space is used as the Trust’s transport hub. It is ideally located between the MSCP and the main arrival and exit barriers for the site, giving the transport team an overlooking position and ensuring a staff member is easily on hand to assist users when required. In using existing space, the Trust reduced its environmental impact as there was no need to erect new accommodation.

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, as occupiers and operators, are working with the system builder HUBER to ensure the suitable upkeep and maintenance of the structure by utilising Huber’s life care and maintenance strategy plans. When designing the car park, consideration was made to the hospital’s existing maintenance contracts, frameworks and procurement options to ensure that there were no issues once the car park was operational. Where required, specification documents included for open protocol items to be used to assist the hospital in achieving best value when maintaining the infrastructure.

Nick Johnson, deputy chief executive of Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, says: “The construction of the multi-storey car park marks a major milestone in our plans to develop our hospital site. As well as improving parking for our patients, staff and visitors, the car park will free up the space we need to expand our clinical facilities and allow us to continue to provide outstanding care for years to come.

“Thank you to Prime and Willmott Dixon for the design and building work, especially the plants and features such as bird boxes that promote local biodiversity and the perforated panels featuring images of Dorset landmarks that reflect our beautiful county.”

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