08:25 Tuesday 26th November 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[P]AUL STAINTON: It’s been derelict for more than two years, but now the former Peterborough District Hospital site has finally been sold. Since the new PCH site opened at Bretton, Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have been trying to sell the site to plug a huge shortfall in the budget. Interim Chief Executive Dr Peter Reading explained why the sale had taken so long to go through.
DR PETER READING: Well two reasons really. One is the collapse of the property market caught the Trust cold several years ago. They originally were planning to develop it themselves in a joint venture, and the collapse in the property market really wiped that option out. They then went down what was a bit of a blind alley, looking at a particular deal that was put forward by a developer by an unusual route, and then eventually decided that actually the best thing to do was to go to the open market and get an open market price. The Hospital, which has been a bit of an eyesore and a bit of a risk for three years since we closed it, will now be demolished, and between 300 and 350 new homes and a school will be built on that site.
PAUL STAINTON: Now the new owners planning that housing development are Lands Improvement Holdings. The NHS will receive £7.75 million up front from the sale of the land, which is just a fraction of the debt owed by the new Peterborough City Hospital. Joining me now is MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson. Stewart, morning.
STEWART JACKSON: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Now you’ve called for this to be hurried up and get the sale moved on over and over and over. It’s been a long time coming, hasn’t it?
STEWART JACKSON: Well things do go very slowly in the NHS, and it is certainly the case that between the Trust and the City Council there has been some delay. And to an extent each blamed the other for the delay. But having said that, that’s water under the bridge now. We are in a position where this capital receipt will make some difference to what is a big structural deficit in the Hospital’s finances. Hopefully this prestigious site, we hope it will be good quality housing and a new school for the West of Peterborough. And coming on top of the decision of Waitrose to move near the station, and the regeneration of the city centre, I think it’s generally good news now.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. And that whole quarter really, should Waitrose move from Queensgate as has been mooted, to the corner of Mayors Walk, that whole quarter will have an upgraded spruced up look about it, won’t it, as you enter the city, either from the train station or from Thorpe Road.
STEWART JACKSON: Yes. Obviously Thorpe Road is the major thoroughfare, coming in from the West into the city centre. And I think it’s important we have a really good quality exemplar housing development there, we have a good school there which is sensitively designed. Obviously that does also complement the fact that the railway station is just finishing in Spring next year its refurbishment, and that means that what was a drab and tired area, dominated by ’70s style buildings will be much more aesthetically pleasing and attractive, and complement the city centre. If we also get North Westgate, which I accept is a big if, if that is developed by Hawksworth Properties, then I think it’s a very positive message for the city. Obviously I was very concerned, it’s actually three years since they moved out of PDH, that it would just lie dormant and be susceptible to vandalism and degradation.
PAUL STAINTON: They’re being quite clever with this as well, haven’t they, because they’re getting £7.75 million up front. Some would say that might not be a lot. But in the present climate that’s not bad I don ‘t think. But also there’s the potential isn’t there for future revenue from the sale of land in the future, when perhaps prices go up a bit.
STEWART JACKSON: Yes. It is quite a detailed contract, which I think is quite .. it reflects well on the Trust that they’ve struck a hard bargain. I’m not putting out the bunting quite yet though, because obviously what they’ve sold the site to, or the four packages of the site, is to effectively a land broker. So we haven’t got the likes of Bovis, Persimmon, Taylor Wimpey and other big developers coming in.
PAUL STAINTON: Aah. So we don’t know what we’re going to git in the terms of Forrest Gump. They could sell it to the highest bidder in the future and who knows what they might build?
STEWART JACKSON: Well they are going to be governed. The Hospital would say look, we’ve got the cheque now. Thank you very much. Which is fair enough. their job is clinical care and health services, rather than land speculation. But they are obviously governed by the policies of the City Council. And my understanding is that the City Council does want a very good quality reasonably low-density housing development there. But Lands Improvement Holdings, essentially what they’re good at is taking a site, tarting it up, doing the environmental improvements, putting the infrastructure in and then selling in each of the individual packages, selling them on to developers. So it could be Persimmon Homes. It could be Redrow Homes, any of the big national companies. It could even be smaller mid-market developers, who want to develop niche housing. We don’t know. But the main thing is the money will be in the bank for the Trust, and we are on the long road now to actually seeing some good quality housing on that site.
PAUL STAINTON: Well let’s hope so, because it is a bit of an eye-sore, and has been for a long long time. I’m just going to get a comment from you if I may on this proposal from Cambridgeshire County Council to grit the roads less in the county of Cambridgeshire. What do you make of that proposal?
STEWART JACKSON: Well unusually Paul I don’t feel adequately placed to comment, not least because I don’t cover the Cambridgeshire County Council area. And it would be remiss of me to comment on the policies of Cambridgeshire County Council.
PAUL STAINTON: What if Peterborough decided to do that. What would you say?
STEWART JACKSON: (LAUGHS) I’d have plenty to say I think. No, I think if I’m honest a general comment is that all of the big local authorities, county councils, have financial issues. They’re in straightened times, and they have to make the appropriate decisions. I know the Leader of the County Council Martin Curtis, and I know he’s a very diligent community focused politician. And if that’s what he’s proposing, he must believe that that’s in the best interests of council taxpayers in Cambridgeshire.
PAUL STAINTON: Bit dangerous though, isn’t it?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I don’t know the full facts, because obviously it’s a big county, and South Cambridgeshire is different to the Fens, different to Huntingdonshire. So without a map and a forward plan I’m not really in a position to comment.
PAUL STAINTON: Thank you very much Stewart. Appreciate that. Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough.