HC Deb 07 February 1977 vol 925 cc566-8W
Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) in his policy of preventing waste in the health services, why for more than five years no effective use has been made of the majority of the buildings and facilities at the former West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St. Edmunds;

(2) how much has been spent by the area health authority and his Department on drawing up plans for the use of the former West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St. Edmunds within the Health Service that have now proved to be abortive; and what is the current revenue cost of maintaining, heating and patrolling these empty buildings;

(3) why for nearly five years no steps were taken to offer the site of the West Suffolk Hospital at Bury St. Edmunds to private commercial buyers; and what is his estimate of the current market value of the site and buildings;

(4) what action he now proposes to relieve the Health Service budget of the capital and revenue costs of retaining a building which his own Department and the regional and area health authorities have decided they no longer need.

Mr. Moyle

In 1972 consideration was given by the Department and the Regional Hospital Board to the use of Bristol Annex at the former West Suffolk Hospital as a centre for training staff in management subjects. Some planning work was done, but the scheme had to be abandoned late in 1973 when professional fees, etc., on the scheme amounted to £6,755.13. Since then the health authorities have considered other possible health service uses of the buildings on the land, but by the end of 1975 had concluded that there would not be a health service use for major parts of the property and that in consequence those parts should be disposed of. Work is now in progress at a cost of nearly £40,000 on adaptation of engineering services within and to the accommodation to be retained. In accordance with the rules for disposal of Government land, they have canvassed local authorities and Government departments which might be interested in acquiring the unwanted areas. None has expressed an interest, and the district valuer has recently advised the Regional Health Authority to offer the surplus land for sale by tender. He has deferred giving an opinion on the current market value of the land in view of the possible risks of subsidence.

I understand that expenditure in the nine months to December on maintaining, heating and patrolling the whole site, including the buildings which are to be retained, amounted to about £5,700. I do not propose to make any special financial arrangements to cover these costs: this is a matter for the health authorities, which will benefit from the proceeds of the sale.