HOPES are being pinned on a Whitehall meeting to resolve a problem with plans to start work on the new £27 million Ludlow Hospital and Health Village.

Work on the project at the Eco Park had been due to start last summer but concern has been growing at the absence of any activity on the site.

Now the Advertiser can reveal the project has become caught up in a legislative wrangle.

Ludlow MP Philip Dunne expects to meet a minister from the Department of Health this month in a bid to resolve the situation.

“I have a meeting to see if I can help to resolve the one outstanding issue which I think is not Ludlow specific but involves the funding of projects at this particular time,” said Philip Dunne.

“Hopefully this is a short term rather than a serious issue.”

The hospital and health village is intended to be built as a public/private sector partnership.

Under this arrangement the project will be built and funded by the private sector with the NHS operating the facility on a long lease and paying for it through a long- term payback arrangement.

It makes it possible to have the hospital at a time when it was unlikely to be approved as an NHS capital scheme, although the overall cost will be much higher than had it been publicly funded.

However, the funder who is believed to be a major national household name insurance company is demanding a copper bottomed guarantee the Secretary of State for Health will underwrite the project in the event of the NHS locally running out of money.

But under new legislation it is understood there is no absolute commitment and clarification is being sought the Government will stand as ultimate guarantor for the scheme.

Peter Corfield, chairman of the League of Friends of Ludlow Hospital, which led the campaign for the new scheme says he is becoming increasingly concerned with the lack of a start.

“I am being told it is only a short term delay and not a threat to the scheme but I want to see work starting as soon as possible,” he said.

Initially work was due to begin on the project in July 2012 but then this was put back until the autumn.

The delayed start to the hospital and health complex, which would have 36 inpatient beds as well as two GP surgeries means hopes of it opening next year are looking increasingly unlikely.