FAIRFIELD Hospital workers will soon be saying farewell to ‘old smoky’.

The landmark white chimney, with a black tip, emits gases from the hospital’s coal-fired steam boiler plant, but the system is ageing and health chiefs are spearheading a £2.4 million upgrade.

Under the project, which started in November, workers have been replacing the old boiler, sited in the hospital grounds off Rochdale Old Road, with a gas low pressure hot water system and a combined heat and power unit, which is more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

Hospital bosses are hoping to launch the new system in July and predict it will save £600,000 a year in energy costs.

Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has now asked Bury Council for permission to knock down the chimney and to install several flues to serve the new system.

A consultation period is under way and ends today and the council is aiming to reach a decision by May 6.

John Wilkes, director of facilities at the trust, said: “This is excellent news, not only for the staff and the patients who we treat, but to the local population and communities surrounding the hospital site.

“As you would imagine, the running of hospitals is very expensive, not only in maintenance but in power.

“Not only will the new gas boiler be much more efficient, it will bring other benefits by helping to provide a cleaner site by removing the soot and coal dust emissions from the existing boiler plant.

“We are also keen to use this capital investment to enlist the work and expertise of local companies in Manchester to help us in our efforts to further reduce our carbon footprint.”