Overdevelopment fears as Portsmouth council loses out on buying St James’ Hospital site 

St James Hospital, in Milton. Picture: Sarah Standing
St James Hospital, in Milton. Picture: Sarah Standing
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HEALTH chiefs have rejected a bid by a council to buy an historic hospital in the city – instead backing a developer who could turn the site into hundreds of flats.

St James’ Hospital has been sold to an unnamed developer, the site’s owner NHS Property Services (NHSPS) revealed today.

The announcement came as a bitter blow to Portsmouth City Council which had its own bid to take over the Milton site and build affordable housing and a care home snubbed.

And although developers have not yet revealed their exact vision for the plot of land, people in Milton fear the hospital site could be transformed into a sprawling residential development, piling pressure on the area’s infrastructure.

Kimberly Barrett, of campaign group Keep Milton Green, said she the organisation would be fighting against any form of overdevelopment.

She said: ‘We’re worried this could have a huge impact on Milton. There’s a “village feel” here and we’re a really close community.

‘This could change everything. We could change from somewhere that’s quite green and open to somewhere that’s overdeveloped and full of cars.

‘As a community, we will work with developers. But if we feel it’s too much then we will fight the developer to oppose it.’

The 25-acre NHS site has a mix of listed buildings and open space and was placed up for sale last year.

Portsmouth City Council submitted its bid in September in an effort to protect the area’s character.

City council boss, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson was frustrated by the news and said: ‘We've tried to buy the site, to prevent overdevelopment and protect the green space.

‘We're disappointed that NHS Property Services seem to have decided to sell it to a developer, and we're worried that they seem to have a vision of more development than the council thinks is possible. Our planning team will be working to try and make sure that the developer understands what is, and what is not, possible.

‘We will be working to protect as much green space as possible, and in particular we will be seeking assurances that protected trees will not be cut down without permission.’

Marketer Montagu-Evans, which was responsible for the sale, said the site could be used to create up to 300 new homes.

The firm said listed buildings could be converted  to create 159 houses and apartments, and 140 homes in new build houses and apartments.

While Forest Lodge could also be used as a care home, the marketer’s promotional material said at the time.

John Westwood, director of asset management at NHSPS said seven bids had been received for St James’ and that interviews were carried out with potential candidates.

The bids have been assessed by the health body, which backed the applicant the organisation felt would bring the best financial return.

He added: ‘NHSPS must be certain that the disposal and/or development proposals for the site will generate a guaranteed return for reinvestment in the NHS estate in order to support the delivery of excellent patient care.

‘We recognise there is much local interest in the future of the site and will announce the new owner of St James’ as soon as contractual negotiations are concluded and the sale completed.’

Commercial negotiations are expected to conclude in February, when the name of the developer – and potential more detail on their plans – will be revealed.

If this fails, the hospital site could go back to tender.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added the council would still be eager to take on the hospital if this happened.