HEALTH chiefs have revealed that a new multi-million pound hospital serving a New Forest community could be just 20 months away.

The transformation of Hythe and Dibden War Memorial Hospital has come a step closer after a planning application was submitted to New Forest District Council.

West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is aiming to build a new health centre for Hythe and Dibden on the footprint of the old vacant hospital building after knocking the structure down.

The new facility would replace the former hospital, on Beaulieu Road, Hythe, that was built more than a century ago.

New plans would see the two-floor building incorporate a dental surgery, consultation rooms, a gym, and minor operations rooms.

Laura Engen, NHS West Hampshire CCG development manager said: “It’s a real milestone for all the people who have been working on the project – and that’s League of Friends, NHS staff, technical teams, planners and local people.

“We know there is still plenty of work to do, but with the plans submitted we know we are getting closer to our goals.”

A spokesman for the CCG confirmed that if everything goes to plan, the new facility could be completed by mid-2019.

Current services in the on-site medical centre would move into the new facilities, making way for the surplus building and land to be separated and sold for development.

John Carr, chair of Hythe and Dibden War Memorial Hospital said: “Having been involved in the project since the very early days, I’m delighted that the plans have now gone in.”

The new facility is set to cost £5.5 million, a £500,000 rise from the figure estimated in 2014.

When approved three years ago by the CCG, board members were told that building a new facility represented better value for money than repairing the current structure.

Hythe and Dibden parish councillor Dan Poole said: “I attended a public consultation during the summer, where designs and plans were on show and was very impressed.

“At a time where some communities are losing excellent facilities such as these, we are extremely fortunate to be not only keeping, but improving, ours.”

The plans have been submitted to the council, with the CCG saying they expect a response before the end of the year.