Uncertainty over Edinburgh's Astley Ainslie hospital site as health board says sale is 'in abeyance for now'

Health bosses have suspended plans to sell Edinburgh's Astley Ainslie hospital and its extensive grounds because they don't have the money to build new accommodation for its services.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 12:30 pm

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Most of the services from the hospital, which provides rehabilitation treatment for a wide range of conditions, are intended to be transferred to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital – but those moves depend on carrying out work at that campus and funding is not currently available.

So NHS Lothian says the disposal of the Astley Ainslie is “in abeyance for now”.

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The Astley Ainslie campus in Morningside Picture: Ian Georgeson

The news comes after years of anticipation about the sale of the 17-acre site at The Grange and the setting up of a special trust to mount a community bid for the land.

In response to a request for an update on the situation from Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson, NHS Lothian said: “Disposal of the site is dependent on the next phases of the Royal Edinburgh campus development because that is where the Astley Ainslie’s services would move to.

"We do not have revised timetable for funding for that development yet and as a result the Astley Ainslie disposal is in abeyance for now.

"We will of course update elected representatives and community development trusts when that situation changes.”

Mr Johnson said he was disappointed at what sounded like an indefinite suspension of the planned sale.

"We really need clarity about what the health board intends to do with the Astley Ainslie site and on what timeframe.

"This is a huge site in the middle of south Edinburgh and the constant prevarication is leading to an unsatisfactory situation for the local community.

"I would urge the health board to publish a clear plan and timeline for what it intends to with this valuable green site in the heart of Edinburgh."

NHS Lothian had planned to market the site in autumn 2020 and select a preferred bidder in spring 2021.

But now it is unclear what is going to happen and it is understood at least one large building on the site, the Southeast Mobility and Rehabilitation Technology (SMART) Centre, which was built in 2007, is likely to remain.

The hospital includes a collection of listed buildings as well as some more modern additions in its landscaped parkland grounds, which include more than 1,500 trees, many 150-180 years old and representing a wide variety of species.

The Astley Ainslie Community Trust was set up three years ago to campaign for community ownership of the site and preserve as much green space as possible.

The hospital dates back to 1923 when it opened with 34 beds, financed by David Ainslie, a member of the wealthy Ainslie family of Lasswade and Haddington, who died in 1900, leaving £800,000 to build and endow a hospital or institution for convalescents from Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary.

By 1930 the hospital had grown to 120 beds, with pavilions with verandahs so patients could remain in the open air

The community trust has said it wants the site to continue to provide health and wellbeing benefits for the people of Edinburgh, but they want to co-operate with developers over building a mix of housing, including sheltered accommodation and affordable homes.

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