HEALTH campaigners have welcomed a plan to preserve the site of the Royal Victoria Hospital for future generations.
The closure of the hospital, which is situated next to the Western General, is set to be completed later this year and the site has been earmarked for potential redevelopment.
A motion proposing that certain buildings and mature trees on the site, along with access for the local community, should be protected was unanimously passed by the council’s planning committee last week.
But while the moves to ensure the historic grounds are preserved have met with approval, campaigners have admitted to disappointment that the building is to be sold off for development.
Nigel Bagshaw, Green councillor for Inverleith, who put forward the motion, said: “The Royal Victoria is a much-loved place for local people to walk and to enjoy the green space. I wanted to make sure that local people continued to enjoy the setting even if the future use is changed.
“That is why I am delighted the planning committee unanimously backed my motion.”
Phyllis Herriot, former secretary of the Scottish Pensions Association, an organisation that campaigned heavily against the selling of the site, told the Evening News: “I am glad that some action is being taken to preserve the area. However, it’s very sad to know the hospital is definitely going. We tried as hard as we could to protect and preserve the hospital. It was a battle to hold on to the land and, unfortunately, one that we did not win.”
The Royal Victoria provides care for many elderly patients, including those suffering from dementia and recovering from strokes. Those who opposed its closure argued that already-stretched services would be put under further strain by the transfer of these services.
Dr Jean Turner, of the Scottish Patients Association, said: “While it’s a good thing moves to preserve the site are being made, I would prefer that the land was kept by the NHS. Many NHS sites in Scotland have already been sold off to create further housing and there is already a shortage of beds. This is putting a strain on remaining facilities and we have an aging population.
“Officials should really be looking to the future and to how a severe shortage of NHS-owned land will affect that.
“How much profit does the NHS really stand to make by selling hospital land off? The fact that trees will remain is great, and a nice environment certainly aids in the mental health and happiness of people in the area, but other than that, how does the public actually benefit from this money?
“I’d imagine not as much as they would by having more open hospital facilities.”
Margaret Watt, also of the Patients Association, added: “We would support the efforts to preserve the site and make sure any development is acceptable to the community. However, normally when NHS sites are sold off it is for a pittance, so I would hope it is sold for market value.”
Iain Graham, director of Capital Planning and Projects at NHS Lothian, said: “In accordance with good practice we engage with planning departments at a very early stage in relation to the redevelopment and/or disposal of our sites. This is the case with the Royal Victoria Hospital site and we have already agreed that we will be preparing a planning and design brief to guide potential purchasers.
“We fully expect to consult with the local community councils as we have for the new Royal Victoria Building.”