Questions raised after Sick Kids sell-off gazumps community bid

A LOTHIAN MSP raised the sell-off of the Sick Kids hospital during First Minister's Questions yesterday as she asked what the Scottish Government can do to protect community buy outs.
Royal Hospital for Sick Kids was sold to property developers. Picture: Scott LoudenRoyal Hospital for Sick Kids was sold to property developers. Picture: Scott Louden
Royal Hospital for Sick Kids was sold to property developers. Picture: Scott Louden

Greens MSP, Alison Johnstone quizzed the First Minister on the sale that “gazumped” the community, by selling the iconic hospital to a property developer, even though ministers were aware of the community interest in the 

Community group, The Marchmont and Sciennes Development Trust (MSDT) was hoping to buy the 122-year-old building.

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But last week it was revealed the Downing Group, a property developing company from Liverpool, sealed the deal with an offer estimated to be around £20 million.

Ms Johnstone said: “It’s simply unacceptable that after many years of struggle, the community has been gazumped.

“NHS Lothian should not have been allowed to sell off the site when ministers knew of the community interest.

“A huge opportunity for the communities of Marchmont and Sciennes, and indeed the whole city of Edinburgh, has been missed.

“If we are serious about urban community empowerment, we cannot allow this situation to happen elsewhere.”

Ms Sturgeon said the sale would provide NHS Lothian with much-needed funds.

She said she understood the strength of feeling, but that the NHS would use the proceeds of the sell-off to invest in services.

Residents living next to the hospital were attempting to purchase the site under new urban community right to buy laws.

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However, their bid was held up by complex ownership issues which revealed that although it was marketed under one site, the facility was actually owned by two separate entities.

Six bidders provided further information to NHS Lothian and Edinburgh and the Lothians Health Foundation before they chose the winner of the deal.

The selling of the hospital was also brought up at 
yesterday’s city council meeting by another green party member, Claire Miller.

The MSP said that the failure of MSDT to purchase the building was of no fault of their own, but rather the fault of the system they had to follow.

“The community trust notified Scottish Government ministers several times of their interest in purchasing the site, and had fantastic plans including truly affordable housing for a range of different occupiers,” she said.

“But they were met with repeated knock-backs due to technical issues with their application. Not because their plans were wrong. Not because the vision was wrong. Not because the funding was absent – but because the process was wrong.”

The hospital was originally set to move to a new £150 million Royal Hospital for Children and Young People at Little France this autumn.

However, the relocation has been met with delays, setting the expected completion date back to May 2018.