THE Chief Constable of Cleveland Police has confirmed he is looking into plans to convert a vacant supermarket into an NHS Nightingale Hospital on Teesside.

Chief Constable Richard Lewis, who is leading the region's response on coronavirus along with the emergency services, local authorities and public bodies, said he will investigate the plans.

Towards the end of last month, a supermarket in Middlesbrough - which has remained empty for half a decade - was suggested as the potential site of the region's first field hospital.

At the time, the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen called for the vacant Middlehaven site to be turned into a field hospital to alleviate pressures on the NHS.

Mr Houchen wrote to Chief Constable Lewis, in his role as Chairman of Gold Command for the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "The empty supermarket building in Middlehaven has a great deal of extra capacity which potentially could provide a ready-built solution, should the virus spread more quickly than hoped.

“That is why I have asked for this to be looked into as a potential solution.

“The utilisation of such a facility would increase capacity, relieve pressure locally, and help to save lives."

But providing an update on the plans, Mr Houchen said Chief Constable Lewis had since confirmed he would look into the site's conversion to field hospital.

Mr Houchen told The Northern Echo: "The new NHS Nightingale hospital in Harrogate will provide hundreds of extra beds as we approach the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, but it is only right that we consider facilities closer to home should the number of cases continue to grow – we can’t be complacent at this critical moment in our fight against this deadly virus.

“That’s why I have already offered the use of the St George Hotel at Teesside International Airport as a location for a temporary hospital, and I have also requested that the empty supermarket in Middlehaven be considered.

“The building has the potential to offer a large amount of extra capacity four our NHS should the virus spread quicker than expected, and I am pleased that Cleveland Police Chief Constable Richard Lewis has confirmed he will look into the possibility in his role as Chairman of Gold Command for the response towards the coronavirus pandemic."

The vacant building in Middlesbrough has stood empty for five years after Sainsbury’s opted out of a potential move from its current home in the town’s Wilson Street, in 2015, leaving it without a tenant.

Although plans remain in the pipeline to split it into smaller units, the 80,000 sq ft facility remains empty.

Mr Houchen added: “My priorities right now are to do everything I can find to ways to help our NHS and the brilliant staff, hard-working businesses and the most vulnerable in our society in this critical moment in our fight against the coronavirus.

"I urge everyone in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool to follow the government advice this Easter and stay home to allow us to beat this virus as quickly as possible and save as many lives as we can."