RESIDENTS have formally submitted a community bid for the Sick Kids Hospital.
They say the application to the Scottish Government to be given first refusal on the four-acre site being sold by NHS Lothian will be the first big test of new laws extending the “right to buy” to urban areas.
The residents have set up the Marchmont and Sciennes Development Trust to spearhead the initiative, which proposes using the site for affordable co-operative housing, healthcare and nursery facilities, space for social enterprises and a community hall.
The 122-year-old hospital is due to close and move to a new building next to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary next year.
The trust says it is facing competition from private developers keen to build luxury flats.
Under the legislation, the Sick Kids sale process has now been paused and ministers have 30 days to decide if the community bid should get first refusal on the site.
Trust spokesman Nathan Bower-Bir said: “This is a significant test of the Scottish Government’s ambitious plans to give the ‘right to buy’ enjoyed by rural communities to those living in towns and cities.
“The hospital is dearly held by people both locally and across Scotland. Whilst we’re sad to see it move, this is a dream opportunity to bring this historic site under community control and put it to the benefit of all of us – not just the well off.
“The people of this community are driving this idea and it is clear they want more than what we have seen at other city-centre sites sold off, where developers cram in as many expensive flats as they can and fence off any green space from public access.
“This is an opportunity for ministers to show that these laws are not token gestures, but in fact are significant acts of reform that truly empower local communities.”
He said local people could see the potential for preserving the Sick Kids’ heritage as well as revitalising the area.
The first urban community buy-out under the legislation is expected to take place in Portobello with Action Porty’s takeover of a redundant church, but the Sick Kids plans are on a much larger and more complicated site.
Mr Bower-Bir said the Portobello project had been a great inspiration. He added: “It was through reading about their success in the News that we said this looks like a perfect opportunity.”
Lothian Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said he hoped community buy-out would be allowed to move forward, adding: “There is significant community support across Marchmont and Sciennes for the community buyout of this important site and a desire to see it utilised in a way that will maximise benefits for all local residents.”
And Steve Burgess, Green councillor for Southside/Newington, said: “From the word go there’s been a huge interest among local residents about the future of the Sick Kids site. A community-led development of the site would allow the community’s ideas to be taken forward.”