District bosses challenged after bids to transform four East Devon hospitals into community assets are knocked back
PUBLISHED: 16:25 19 December 2018
Council bosses have been challenged after refusing to make Axminster, Seaton and Honiton’s hospitals community assets.
Ottery St Mary councillor Roger Giles questioned the decision at last Wednesday’s full meeting of East Devon District Council (EDDC) - arguing that more weight was given to landowner.
Bids from the three towns to make the hospitals an asset of community value (ACV) were submitted, but have now been rejected by EDDC. A bid for Ottery’s hospital was also refused.
EDDC rejected the bids on the grounds they did not meet the definition of ‘community asset’, or the ‘social wellbeing’ aspect, under the Localism Act 2011 – which would apply to buildings such as community centres, libraries, swimming pools, village shops, markets and pubs.
Cllr Giles said the ACV status would give the community six months first refusal on the purchase of the building, which is owned by NHS Property Services, if it went on the market.
Cllr Giles said he was concerned about the process the council used to determine ACV requests when Teingbridge, North Devon and Waveney district councils have designed local hospitals with the status.
The leader of the council, Ian Thomas, provided a written answer, saying: “The weight given to the NHS objection in this case was high.
“It addressed the legal position under the act and if the owner had taken the matter to the first tier tribunal, there would have been a very high chance that the NHS would have successfully argued that the site should not have been listed on the grounds they identified.”
Law firm Bevan Brittan, acting on behalf on NHS Property Services, wrote that the 2011 act was primarily related to leisure activities.
The solicitors argued that health services could not be considered under the definition of social interests.
After the meeting, Cllr Giles said: “I am very concerned at the process used by the council to determine the request, and I am particularly disappointed at the decision not to grant ACV status.
“This is contrary to decisions made by other councils such as Teignbridge District Council, in respect of Bovey Tracey Hospital, and North Devon Council in respect of Ilfracombe Hospital.”