Gazumped! Green concerns over Sick Kids sell-off
Green MSP Alison Johnstone used yesterday’s First Minister’s Questions to highlight the “gazumping” of one of Scotland’s first major urban community buy-outs, the Sick Kids Hospital site at Sciennes. Green councillor Claire Miller also raised the issue of the Sick Kids sell-off during yesterday’s full council meeting.
Ms Johnstone asked the First Minister what more her government would do to support community bids in light of NHS Lothian selling the site to a student-accommodation developer. A community trust had notified Scottish Ministers of their interest back in April.
The First Minister responded to Alison saying that she understood the strength of feeling but that the NHS would use the proceeds of the sell-off to invest in services.
Lothians MSP Alison Johnstone MSP said: “It’s simply unacceptable that after many years of struggle, the community has been gazumped. NHS Lothian should not have been allowed to sell off the site when Ministers knew of the community interest.
“A huge opportunity for the communities of Marchmont and Sciennes, and indeed the whole city of Edinburgh, has been missed. If we are serious about urban community empowerment we cannot allow this situation to happen elsewhere.”
Green councillor Claire Miller raised the issue at yesterday’s meeting of the city council. She said: “The community trust notified Scottish Government ministers several times of their interest in purchasing the site, and had fantastic plans including truly affordable housing for a range of different occupiers.
“But they were met with repeated knock-backs due to technical issues with their application. Not because their plans were wrong. Not because the vision was wrong. Not because the funding was absent. But because the process was wrong.”
The Royal Hospital for Sick Children is an iconic site that spans over 1.62 Hectares (4.01 acres) in the Marchmont, Meadows and Bruntsfield conservation area and includes a range of listed properties. Ownership is split over NHS Lothian and Edinburgh and the Lothians Health Foundation charity.
Last week NHS Lothian announced that developer Downing Group will purchase the lucrative site when services relocate to Little France next year (above).
Jacquie Campbell, Chief Officer for Acute Services, NHS Lothian said: “The decision to move the services from the current site and dispose of the site was not an easy one to make. The legacy of the Royal Hospital for Sick Kids dates back to 1863 and since 1895 the hospital at Sciennes Road has been home to thousands of children and their families in the building many have grown to call ‘the sick kids’.
“Although the site has a developer lined up to take ownership of the site, patients and their families can rest assured that no changes will be made to the current facilities until they are set to move to the their new location in the £150m Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Little France next year.”
David Fraser, partner with Ryden, adviser to NHS Lothian said: “The property was put up for sale in November 2016 and naturally generated a great deal of interest which resulted in 21 formal bids being received in early 2017. After carefully consideration, six bidders were invited to provide additional clarifications whereby the Downing Groups was selected as preferred bidder.”
Overseeing the process, Jim Crombie, Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Lothian said: “It has been a competitive process but the prospective purchaser showed keen interest in the important legacy for the site through their proposed mixed use development which will also provide significant capital support to the new hospital.
“Downing is still formulating their detailed plans and we anticipate further community engagement will take place as the developer prepares their planning applications.”
Jane Ferguson, Director, Edinburgh and the Lothians Health Foundation added: “On behalf of the trustees of the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, I am delighted that the process to sell the buildings that make up the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Sciennes has reached its conclusion.
“This step is an important one in the hospital’s relocation to Little France, Edinburgh, together with the Department of Clinical Neuroscience and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
“The trustees have already committed over £2m to the development and realisation of the Art and Therapeutic Design programme for the new building, helping to creating a home for the hospital every bit as iconic as the old ‘Sick Kids’. The proceeds of the sale of the trustee-owned buildings at Sciennes will be used to continue to support our vision of healthier, longer lives for the people of Lothian.”