By Nick Gill
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
A COMMUNITY bid to save Royston Hospital could be made after the health facility was registered as a public asset.
Royston Hospital Action Group (RHAG) and the League of Friends of Royston Hospital have been successful in getting the hospital and the land it is situated on listed by North Herts District Council as an asset of community value.
The two groups made the nomination under the Localism Act and were told by the district council it had been successful last week.
The hospital site was put up for sale in December last year under plans to redevelop it as a 40-bed care home with intermediate NHS beds, but the listing ensures the community groups will now be made aware of any bids to buy the site in London Road.
It also means the groups could make a bid themselves, a decision which has to be made in the next six weeks.
“It means the current owner, the NHS, has a legal obligation to involve the community in the process and give the community an opportunity to make a bid if they wanted,” said RHAG chairman Chris Cowsley, speaking on behalf of the two groups.
“We will decide in the next six weeks whether it is necessary to initiate a community bid to take back possessions of the site the community originally provided for hospital care in 1923 to prevent it falling into private hands.
“Echoing the intentions of its visionary benefactors of the late 19th and early 20th century, and the community that valued and supported it then, our vision is to ensure its ongoing role as a public asset devoted to providing sustainable health care in the best way possible for the community in and around Royston.”
The two groups have continued their campaign to keep NHS beds at the hospital by canvassing in Royston town centre this week and have seen more than 400 named patients ask them to pass on leaflets backing the cause to CATCH, the clinical commissioning body for health services in Royston.
Andy Cavanagh, North Herts District Council’s head of finance, performance and asset management, said: “The listing means that community groups would initially have a six-week moratorium period following confirmation of disposal of the site by the current owners, in this case the National Health Service, in which to confirm in writing whether they wish to be treated as a potential bidder for the site.
“Following this request they then have a further four and a half months – a full six month moratorium would apply in total – to put forward a bid which the landowners would normally be obliged to consider, however the landowner is ultimately free to dispose of the site to whoever they choose.
“We have also provided additional information to the nominating groups to confirm that exemptions might apply in this case, as per the Localism Act, which could result in the landowner being able to enter a binding contract with another party during the moratorium period. It would be for the landowner to take advice and decide on whether they believe an exemption would apply.”