THE new Malvern Comm-unity Hospital may not be big enough to cope when it is built.

Pressures of a growing elderly population on beds and fears about inadequate car parking were raised at a public meeting to decide the future of the hospital.

Outline plans and artists' impressions were on display at Malvern Hills Dist-rict Council offices at Priory Lodge as part of a public consultation.

Worcestershire Primary Care Trust is managing the project and seeking public opinion about the look, location and overall design of the hospital, which is expected to be open in Sept-ember 2010.

People, health chiefs, local coucillors - including the leader of the council Serena Croad - and Harriett Bald-win, parliamentary candidate for West Worcester-shire, were at the first of four public meetings about plans for the £19.3 million hospital at Seaford Court.

Pat Merrick, chairman of the League of Friends of Malvern Community Hosp-ital said she had been fighting for the hospital for 29 years.

She was concerned that the 24-bed hospital will need to expand to take pressure from a growing elderly population. This concern was also shared by Malven Hills district councillor Paul Tuthill.

Mrs Merrick, who is also a Malvern town councillor, said: "We're going to need more than 24 beds in the future. The Worcestershire Royal Hospital can't cope with the numbers. The elderly population in Malv-ern is growing faster than anyone will acknowledge."

One of the other fears was that there would be too few car parking spaces.

But Bryan Smith, chairman of the Worcestershire Primary Care Trust, said he believed the 82 car parking spaces would be enough.

He said: "The thought of going to hospital to see someone and not being able to park is an appalling thought. The fear is quite valid but a lot of thought has gone into the modelling. We don't want to provide more spaces than we need. It's expensive and the planners don't want it."

Micheline Robson-Ward, aged 60, of Woodshears Road, Malvern, is the former occupational manager of St Anne's Orchard Day Hospital, which closed in 2006.

She said she would prefer the hospital to have a traditional design rather than contemporary one.

She said: "This area is a conservation area and the building should look attractive and blend in with its surroundings. It's the main entrance into Malvern. If they're going to put it here, they need a better design. I think it's going to cause a huge problem with traffic."

Project director Brian Hanford did not rule out a schools' competition to help influence the direction of the design.

He hopes that the hospital will relieve pressure on the A&E at the Royal in Worcester.