Atkinson Morley's Hospital Green Space
|Links||Library and Archive||
LOSS OF URBAN GREEN SPACE
For many years the UK has been losing large
amounts of green open
space to building development. The
report of the Urban Green Spaces Task Force Survey and the Public Parks Assessment
2002 highlighted the problem of declining urban parks
in Britain. Further information is available on the web-site of the
Greenspace (formerly Urban Parks Forum).
West Wimbledon over 20 acres of green land have been lost to building
development in the last two decades.
We are now short of playing fields for team sports and other forms of exercise, and obesity, especially in children, is one consequence of this lack of play space.
A recent study by the Heritage Lottery Fund confirms that parks make an important contribution to the quality of urban and suburban life.
Atkinson Morley's Hospital site there are some 13 acres of playing fields
that the Hospital Trust have allowed to become derelict, despite local
schools being desperate for such facilities and willing to pay for their
upkeep. In the recent past schools and clubs from all over London and
Surrey have used these pitches in an intensive way.
The loss of green space in urban areas across the country means a reduction in the ‘green lung’ effect at a time of increasing urban densities. Cities are consequently seeing rises in urban pollution levels and sharp increases in diseases such as asthma, particularly in the young and elderly, thus affecting costs of treatment by the National Health Service.
There are about two acres of woodland on this site, which not only support a rich diversity of flora and fauna but also ecologically balance the growing levels of pollution caused by sharp increases in commuter and other traffic on Copse Hill and surrounding roads.
The site forms part of an important “green chain”, a network of strategic open spaces within and without the Borough, maintaining protection against pollution in the wider area of South London, as well as helping to mitigate against global warming.
We are losing our ability to support biological diversity across the country, by the short-term decisions we are taking in farming and planning policy. This reduces the range of different environments that can be sustained, either because of change in land use or because of increasing levels of pollution. Therefore our ability to cope with environmental accidents and disasters is weakened.
Around 3 acres of the Atkinson Morley's Hospital site are designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) because of the rare plant life and the unusual diversity of flora and fauna.
Taking these three issues together, it can be seen
that the lack of strategic thinking by the individual
National Health Service Trusts, and the
strong encouragement of the
Treasury, is driving them to maximise cash
sale now and not concern themselves with the impact of increasing health
problems on the funding of the National Health Service (NHS) in future
years. Even now it is clear that there is a time bomb lurking for
future politicians and civil servants who will have to cope with
increased demands on the health service, while having
to fund unpredictable rental costs for the facilities.
In most of the major cities in the UK, public sector key workers such as health service staff, teachers, police, fire brigade etc are finding it very difficult to afford to purchase their own housing, and most of the authorities have long ago sold their rented accommodation under earlier rounds of cost saving. This is creating long-term pressure on staffing levels in all sectors. The issue is set to get worse under the high rates of property price increases in certain centres like London and Bristol.
Sales of NHS land are expected to exceed £700m in the three years to March 2003. In September 2002 the Commons Public Accounts Committee said: “Given the price of land, especially in London, and shortages of accommodation for nurses and other essential workers, too aggressive a disposal policy risks high cost in the future as operational needs change. NHS risks compounding its problems in recruiting and retaining staff if it continues to adopt an aggressive policy of land disposals.” The NHS needs to think much more strategically about its land assets.
The current Atkinson Morley's Hospital site will be
sold to developers as part of St George’s Public
Finance Initiative to fund new
hospital activity at Tooting, South London. One of the buildings that it is proposed
for demolition is The Firs,
containing apartments that are currently used by nursing and other hospital staff.
One unit, The Wolfson Rehabilitation Unit, will remain after the rest of
the hospital leaves in July 2003. They will now have no accommodation
nearby to rent to staff. We would be looking for a positive stand by
the Hospital Trust that the affordable housing
developed on the site would be for
public sector essential workers.
The National Health Service is being asked, with
all the other public sector bodies, to work strategically in partnership
in each locale, so that there is sustainable, joined-up activity that
addresses the complex development issues in each area of the country,
while making sure that local solutions do not have a worsening effect on neighbouring areas. This strategic partnership working is on top of the
‘good neighbour’ policy that the NHS Estates has tried to evolve.
St George’s NHS Trust has repeatedly tried to
obtain approval for building development on its MOL land on the Atkinson
Morley's Hospital site during the last 10 years. Merton Council had
designated it MOL before the first Unitary Development Plan (UDP)
process in 1995. The Trust appealed to the Secretary of State for
the Environment, whose Inspector ruled in favour of the Council.