A CHERISHED former hospital site is a step closer to being transformed into a base for at least 100 houses.

Hoardings have now gone up around the perimeter of Essex County Hospital in Lexden Road, Colchester.

The hospital closed its doors to the public in November. Remaining services were transferred either to Colchester Hospital in Turner Road or the neighbouring Primary Care Centre, which recently underwent a £6.4million redevelopment.

The historic Essex County Hospital site is in the hands of Essex County Council which is set to submit a planning application to build houses on it later this year.

It has not revealed exactly how many homes would go on the site but says there would be more than 100.

The final decision on the homes would lie with Colchester Council which is the planning authority.

A county council spokeswoman said: “Essex Housing, Essex County Council’s in-house developer, has been meeting planning officers regularly to bring forward this regeneration project that seeks to retain and restore the main hospital building and other heritage buildings on this 4.5 acre site.

“When public sector land and buildings become surplus to requirements there is often a risk they will drift into disrepair or lay empty but Essex Housing works with public sector bodies to stop this happening, speeding up housing growth.

“Essex Housing has been working with a design team, planning officers and Historic England over the past months in preparation for a planning submission in 2019.

“It is then hoped subject to a positive planning process and outcome that site preparatory works can start in late 2019.”

The spokeswoman said in the last year Essex Housing has already begun construction of 64 properties on three vacant sites and is working on another 541 homes, 202 of which already have planning permission.

A total of 180 of these are homes to help older people live independently for longer and another 26 redevelopment sites are being investigated.

The spokeswoman said the homes at Lexden Road would be “available to everyone”.

The 200-year-old hospital building closed because it was no longer suitable as a modern healthcare setting.

The process to shut down the site has also been a gradual one for the past four years after it was agreed by hospital directors.