Community bid for Edinburgh Sick Kids hospital at risk

The Marchmont and Sciennes Development Trust must now submit two revised bids for the Sick Kids site.
The Marchmont and Sciennes Development Trust must now submit two revised bids for the Sick Kids site.
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A COMMUNITY bid to take over the site of the soon-to-move Sick Kids Hospital has been delayed by red tape – and now there are fears it could be sold to developers instead.

A trust set up by resident applied to be given first refusal on the site under new urban 
community right-to-buy laws. But now it has been told its application is not valid because although the four-acre hospital is being marketed as one site, it is owned by two separate organisations – NHS Lothian and its charitable trust, the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation.

The Marchmont and Sciennes Development Trust is working urgently to submit two revised bids, but in the meantime the suspension of the sale process – ordered while the Scottish Government 
considered the original application – has been lifted, allowing NHS Lothian to resume talks with short-listed private developers.

In a statement Jim Crombie, deputy chief executive of NHS Lothian, said they would respond to a request from the trust for further information this week.

But he added: “The existing process to sell the properties will continue and we will be resuming talks with those who have already bid for the site.”

Developers are eager to secure the land for housing when the hospital moves to its new home next to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary at Little France.

The community bid proposes affordable co-operative housing, healthcare and nursery facilities, space for social enterprises and a community hall.

Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP Daniel Johnson said: “I’m concerned NHS Lothian is trying to bring the sale process to a conclusion before a revised community bid can be submitted.”

A community trust spokesman said the complication was disappointing. “We are now focused on definitively determining who owns which parts of the site and submitting the two applications that could ultimately see the community take control of the Sick Kids site when the NHS moves out.

“We have asked the health board and the foundation for help with this task as they hold the relevant title deeds, a move which will benefit all parties as it would speed up the process and get us all closer to a decision on whether MSDT should get first refusal on the site. This site remains a dream opportunity to bring this historic hospital under community control.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said ministers had had no alternative but to decline the application. But she said: “Officials have already had a constructive meeting with the trust to explain the situation and to provide guidance on how to ensure future applications comply with the relevant legislation.”