Activists claim new hospital site in Pickering is a “bad idea” for the environment

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Published December 10, 2021 at 2:31 pm

The competition between Pickering, Whitby and Oshawa to host the next hospital in Durham Region is still mid-race, but local environmental activists have made their choice clear on the future site: not Pickering.

Protesters have been making their voices heard lately, demanding the headwaters of the Carruther’s Creek watershed be added to the greenbelt and protected from development. Pickering’s proposed site is on Concession Road 7, west of Salem Road, smack-dab in the middle of the watershed.

Phil Pothen, a lawyer and the Ontario Environment Program manager with Environmental Defence, made it clear he has nothing against Pickering getting a new hospital per se. Just not in the location they have chosen.

“Very plainly, there are 23,000 acres of land already open for development,” he said. “This is not a good idea.”

Pothen cited distance from transit and lack of servicing as non-environmental reasons the site wouldn’t be ideal but claimed the real reason for the chosen location is so a consortium of developers – who donated the land – could get their foot in the door and develop the surrounding lands.

“It’s not for nothing that, despite all the potential sites to choose from they chose this site,” Pothen said. “They want to open up the headwaters for development. Very clearly, it’s a last-minute attempt to get their foot in the door – as the door is closing – to develop lands not meant to be developed.”

Oshawa, meanwhile, is starting to ramp up its efforts to win the bid and has hired consulting firm Capital Hill Group of Ottawa to support their submission.

Capital Hill Group will provide a presentation at a special public meeting of Council in January.

Oshawa’s preferred site is north of the university on Simcoe Street, a location that met all the mandatory submission criteria except for the requirement that the new hospital be a minimum of 10 kilometers away from an existing hospital with an emergency department.

Whitby, which established itself as an early front-runner in the race as it is the only town of the three in the running not served by a full-service hospital, has been publicly quiet on the issue of late, preferring to let its preferred site – close to major roads and highways and easily accessible by transit and air ambulance – do its talking.

Whitby’s site is on lands currently owned by the Ministry of Transportation located between Lake Ridge Road, Winchester Road, Highway 407 and Highway 412.

The proposed development of a new hospital is a major component of Lakeridge Health’s Master Plan, which serves as a roadmap for the future of health care delivery in Durham Region. Based on demand, evidence, and growth projections, Lakeridge Health is planning for inpatient bed growth of almost 1,000 beds to meet projected demand over the next 25 years.

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