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  CHALLENGES TO THE OPEN LAND
 

Treasury demands

Building developments

Degradation of facilities

Treasury Demand for Maximum Financial Gain

     The Treasury demands via the Public Finance Initiative that NHS Trusts must maximise financial gain from the sale of any “land capital”, above all other considerations.

     This conflicts with the view of other Government Departments, such as those responsible for education, health, culture and transport, and Merton Council, who consider that the measure of “best value” is not simply the “highest monetary return. 

     The 1994 Code on Modernising NHS Estates  states that “disposal strategies must be consistent with Government policies for protection of historic buildings and areas. This policy may limit opportunities for the realisation of development value”. Despite this, St. George’s NHS Trust continues to challenge the MOL and SINC designations of the Atkinson Morley's site, in favour of maximising financial receipts from the sale of the site. 

Challenges from building and land designation changes:  In the past 20 years, the Atkinson Morley's Hospital site has faced a series of building development challenges to its open space:

1982: a planning brief was prepared for development of the sports fields to housing.  Permission was refused by Merton Borough Council  since it was a departure from the Local Plan

1990: in order to secure the integrity of the site, Merton Council first designated the AMH open land as part of a Conservation Area

1994: theInspector's Report of the Merton Unitary Development Plan  rejected objections by St. George’s NHS Trust and upheld Merton Council’s proposal for designation of a new area in West Wimbledon as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL).  this included the open land of the Atkinson Morley's Hospital site

1995: A portion of AMH land (4 acres) was sold by the St. George’s NHS Trust for development. The land included two Listed Buildings (Cottenham House and the Stables of the former Prospect Place). The methods employed in marketing and developing the 4-acre site resulted in numerous confrontations between the St. George's NHS Trust, Merton council and local bodies, and a final agreement on the sale was not made until 1998.

1998: in an effort to achieve a coordinated approach to development, the Wimbledon Member of Parliament, Roger Casale, invited representatives of the St. George's NHS Trust, Merton Council, local residents’ and amenity bodies and the Scout group to participate jointly in a Task Force.

1999: an Urban Design and Planning Framework for future development was presented on behalf of local bodies. This was supported by a survey by the London Wildlife Trust, indicating the initial and onward costs of the proposed open space scheme. However, the St. George's NHS Trust withdrew from discussions on the grounds that they are instructed to obtain “best value” for the site, ignoring NHS Estate Guidance. 

Degradation of sports facilities: Since 1997 there has been consistent pressure from St, George's NHS Trust to degrade the MOL area in an attempt to justify de-designation.  Despite an undertaking by the Chief Executive of the Trust to keep the grass cut and in good condition, the sports facilities have been neglected and allowed to become overgrown.  Photo of neglected sports ground June 2000

The Old Wimbledonians sports club sought to purchase the site in 1983 but were only offered leases, renewable annually, challenging the need for long-term investment and management. Ultimately, the Trust refused to renew leases and the Old Wimbledonians were forced to purchase elsewhere, leaving the grounds vacant.  

Rokeby School (Kingston-upon-Thames) and Kings College Junior School requested a lease (short-term if necessary), and were willing to share the facility with other schools and organisations in the area, including the Scouts. The schools have received no response, and access has been denied.