PROPERTY developer Shaw Homes is confident of meeting the deadline for Ledbury's new Community Hospital, despite being behind schedule on the project.

Shaw is said to be two or three weeks behind schedule on the project but claims the spring deadline for the opening is still on.

Alan Savery, Shaw's property services director said: "Work is progressing well and the provisional date of March 8, 2002, is still something we are working towards."

The whole of the building's timber frame is now almost up and the electrics are being installed.

Work has also started on fitting brickwork cladding to the outside of the £4m development and the tiling of the roof will start soon.

Shaw is also in talks with the Primary Care Trust to ensure the smooth transition of staff from the Cottage Hospital to the Community Hospital.

The new hospital will have 13 dedicated NHS beds and 47 private residential nursing home beds.

Recruiting for a variety of posts starts this autumn.

Shaw is to open an "information shop" about the project in the former fabric in New Street in three or four weeks' time.

News of progress at the hospital site follows a report from the Herefordshire Community Health Council, which is critical of the "cramped" conditions at the existing Ledbury Cottage Hospital, which the Community Hospital will replace.

But the report is also complimentary about the efforts of those who work at the hospital.

It states: "Considering the cramped and overstretched facilities, the staff certainly make the most of what they have.

"A new hospital is due in March 2002. The staff have been fully involved with the planning of the new facility and are extremely enthusiastic about it."