Please send me SCA's fortnightly briefing:

May 4, 2011

Anomolies in asset transfer market

Who’s allowed to transfer public assets to communities at less than the market value?  Councils can but other parts of the public sector can’t.  Or rather, other parts of the public sector can – but only when sufficient political will exists. Just ask the community on the Isle of Rhum.  Health Boards now seem keen to release underused land for community use but seem hamstrung by the requirement to sell at market value.  An anomaly that the new Scottish Government needs to sort

Surplus land freed up by the redevelopment of Murray Royal Hospital, Perth, could become a community asset, according to one group.

In May 2012, on completion of the new hospital campus, the original Murray Royal will close its doors, marking the end of an era of almost 200 years.

At that time the unused surrounding land and buildings, including the B-listed main hospital and chapel and bowling pavilion, are set to become surplus to NHS Tayside requirements.

“Many people believe the land will be sold to the highest bidder with the possibility of a future private housing development.

“But a working group called the Surplus Land Group, comprising service users, carers, people from the local community, chamber of commerce and community council, have been working over the last two years for the joint purpose of retaining the surplus land and buildings for community benefit,” said a spokesman for the group.

“During the early stages of the Surplus Land Group, a lot of creative thinking and considerable legwork resulted in various suggestions for use of the land, including locally grown food, social businesses, archive and office space, budget accommodation, a historical museum, weddings and ceremonies and arts and craft workshops.

“The group saw opportunities to boost local employment opportunities and training for people moving on from psychiatric services.

“This is a great opportunity for NHS Tayside to buck the historical trend of former psychiatric hospital sites being sold off to the highest bidding developer and to put into practice their new equalities strategy Communities In Control, which promotes wellbeing, inclusion, equality and a sense of mutual ownership by selling at market value to a community development trust (CDT) instead.

“A CDT would ensure that the former NHS asset would be used for community benefit — promoting wellbeing and helping to tackle some of Perth and Kinross’s social problems and health inequalities through enterprise and innovation.”

NHS Tayside is aware of the community interest and project director Dave Charles said, “At Murray Royal the new hospital for adult and older people’s mental health care won’t occupy the whole site so NHS Tayside set up a group representing the local community and users and carers to look at all the options for the remaining land and buildings and to report on these to the board.

“The Surplus Land Group has now been disbanded and a non-NHS group is forming a community development trust which may make an offer for the property in due course.”

Murray Royal Hospital has long been viewed as a treasured and important resource for the people of Perth.

Opened in 1827 at a cost of £20,000 the then new Scottish Royal Asylum was bequeathed by James Murray for the benefit of the people of Perth and surrounding districts.

It appears to be the wish of many locals that the building and surrounding land continues to fulfil that original philanthropic purpose, says the Surplus Land Group.