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Dangers of the ‘double your money’ NHS land sale plan

Royal Free is eagerly eyeing-up the sale of its property portfolio, while the Whittington, too, is desperately seeking approval for its strategy to develop its estate

03 May, 2018

The Royal Free’s ‘Pear’s Building’

ROBERT Naylor, the former chief executive of University College London Hospitals, called in his controversial “Naylor Report” last year for “urgent action to accelerate” NHS land sales.

The report – which has been adopted as policy by Theresa May’s government – contained within it a “2-for-1” offer where the government steps in and doubles any cash from early sales.

This policy has inevitably led to warnings that trusts would hastily rush into ill-thought-out estate sales.

It is no wonder that we find the Royal Free is eagerly eyeing-up the sale of what is, undoubtedly, their most valuable asset in its property portfolio.

The Whittington, too, is desperately seeking approval for its strategy to develop its estate.

NHS chiefs have not, historically, covered themselves in glory when it comes to playing the role of developer. Big money chief executives often get big ideas, and often at the expense of residents and the neighbourhood in general.

There will no doubt be a deep intake of breath at the latest decision to “test the market” with Queen Mary House, where dozens of its staff are living in shared low-rent accommodation.

Nursing accommodation in New End, currently a giant crater in the ground, is soon to be filled with more private housing.

It may be more practical for the Royal Free to move accommodation to the main hospital site. But this should not mean that a developer is allowed to get around clear guidelines designed to preserve the social mix. Too often this has been ignored in affluent areas of Camden such as Hampstead.

The Queen Mary site is huge – some 160,000 square feet – more than enough space for the council to insist that key worker housing is built there as well.

No Khan do?

HAS Labour’s Sadiq Khan (above) lost the plot when he accuses us of making “make political capital out of a grieving family”?

This newspaper has, since the terrible night of violence in Kentish Town, reported parents’ repeated calls for the Mayor of London to come and speak directly to them.

Was it individualistic pride, or simply stubbornness – not to be seen to be persuaded by calls from a local newspaper – that saw him dig his heels in? Does he not like being pushed into a corner?

It could be argued that, given the levels of violence, the Mayor could not realistically be expected to visit every grieving household.

But the events in this borough in February were of such a magnitude that we believe it deserved a special show of support.

Will he come now?

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