Hospital chiefs perform U-turn on planned land sale

Wrightington Hospital
Wrightington Hospital

Borough health chiefs considered selling off part of their famous Wrightington Hospital site - then performed a U-turn when they realised they may need it after all.

But they could yet sell off land at Leigh Infirmary which is surplus to requirements. And it could make them a tidy sum after it was estimated that up to 40 homes could be built there instead.

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Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) is one of more than 100 trusts planning to sell off surplus property amid an ongoing row over the sale of NHS assets.

Data reveals that the trust already made £4.4m several years ago when it sold off the land that once housed Billinge and Whelley hospitals.

Independent health think tank the Nuffield Trust said it could be cause for concern if trusts were making decisions to sell sites too hastily, only to realise they are needed after all.

Between April 2017 and March 2018, English NHS trusts declared 1,670 acres of land and property surplus to requirements, which have an estimated combined market value of more than £220m.

But only 40 per cent of sites have been published with an estimated price, suggesting a total value of more than £500m.

Labour has accused the Government of overseeing a “secret fire sale” of NHS assets to plug funding gaps. But the Government calls it a necessary step towards solving the housing crisis.

Since 2011, the Department of Health and Social Care has been tasked with selling enough public land for more than 40,000 homes to be built, the vast majority of which will be on land owned by individual NHS trusts.

But WWL has demonstrated that it is capable of changing its mind about sales before it is too late.

A spokeswoman said: “The land which is now deemed no longer surplus is a part of the Wrightington site which was initially identified as such, however, increased activity/development on site and the need for more car parking has meant that this is not now feasible.

“The currently identified surplus land is a small parcel at the rear of Leigh Infirmary which is currently being assessed for disposal for residential purposes.

“This will of course be subject to satisfactory planning approval being obtained.”