Residents debate future of Astley Ainslie hospital site

The site of the Astley Ainslie hospital. Picture: Jon Savage
The site of the Astley Ainslie hospital. Picture: Jon Savage
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Have your say

Earmarked for sale in 2019 – Grange locals hope to protect the future of the Astley Ainslie hospital and the surrounding grounds in a bid to maintain a community link with the site.

Since 2011, NHS Lothian has engaged with local community councils on redevelopment of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and the relocation of services at Astley Ainslie Hospital (AAH) to the Royal Edinburgh site.

The hospital specialises in rehabilitative care for people who have suffered brain injuries, stroke, orthopaedic or cardiac conditions and respite care for elderly people but was cited for closure, with NHS Lothian struggling to provide care in the ageing building.

And the Grange community came out in force to have a say in the first step to save the hospital and the “precious” grounds as NHS Lothian moves towards sale of the site.

More than 150 people attended a public meeting held in the Eric Liddell Centre in Bruntsfield last night to discuss plans for the future of the 45 acre site.

Edinburgh Southern MSP Daniel Johnson, who chaired the public discussion said: “It’s really fantastic to see a room full of people all of whom are concerned about what happens at Astley 
Ainslie.

“I think whatever happens –it’s such a large and green site – it is of vital importance that we have our say in it, and that starts with a roomful of people who are really committed.”

Nicky Donald, adviser at Community Ownership Support Service, said the community taking ownership of the site was possible as long as they gave a clear message for the future of the hospital grounds and the impact.

She said: “There is funding out there in order for communities to buy assets – and it is very important how you articulate what you want to do on the site.”

Some residents raised concerns about the feasibility of the community taking on such a vast site with a potential price tags in the “tens of 
millions”.

One local resident said: “In this area we have had one recent huge disappointment over perspective community ownership in relation to the Sick Kids hospital, where an application bumped into a number of bureaucratic obstacles and then failed.

“How can we avoid that happening? This is also a huge site – is it possible to apply for asset transfer or community ownership for part of a site like this?”

NHS Lothian is creating a masterplan, in consultation with the community, on the future of the site before putting it up for sale.

Vice chair of the Grange Association Roger Kellet, said: “There are now just 80 patients left in the Astley Ainslie but it has become the home for lots of other facilities and the number of staff who work there is quite phenomenal and I think this is why all the plans are running behind – they say two months but we think about six months.”

Another meeting will be held at 7pm on February 21.