asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) whether he will publish in the Official Report the exact terms of the restrictive covenant on sale in favour of the Grosvenor Estates Ltd. under which a portion of the site of St. George's hospital, Hyde Park Corner, London S.W.1, is held;(2) what is his estimate of the value of the site of St. George's hospital, Hyde Park Corner, London S.W.1, at current market values; and what is his estimate of the value of that portion of the site, the freehold of which is vested in his Department without encumbrances;(3) whether he will place in the Library a map of the site of St. George's hospital, Hyde Park Corner, London SW1, delineating that portion of the site which is held subject to a restrictive covenant on sale in favour of Grosvenor Estates Ltd;(4) what are his objectives in planning the future of the site of St. George's hospital. Hyde Park Corner, London, SW1; and by what procedural steps he intends to achieve those objectives.
The general position over St. George's hospital is that the hospital has now moved to its new buildings at Tooting. The land at Hyde Park Corner on which the old St. George's hospital was built is subject to a complex system of ownership. Half the site is vested without restriction in the Secretary of State for the Social Services. The other half is vested, roughly two-thirds in the Secretary of State and the rest in St. George's medical school—which has also been rebuilt at Tooting—but this half is subject to a preemptive right which entitles the Grosvenor Estates to regain ownership for the sum of £23,700, if it ceases to be used for "St. George's hospital". This pre-emptive right was agreed by both parties in 1906 and confirmed in 1937, and was not questioned at the time of the passing of the NHS Act in 1946.I shall be approaching the Grosvenor Estates and the dean of the medical school to obtain their agreement to place the deeds, as the future of this site is a matter of public importance, in the Library of the House, with a plan showing the different parts of the site.
The Government will, of course, be seeking a current legal opinion on the position including the covenant.
The NHS and its predecessors have had use of this valuable site since 1906—and indeed under different conditions for the last 200 years—at a negligible cost.
With the final move of St. George's hospital to Tooting, I had to consider whether there was any other health purpose for which the building might be needed. I am now satisfied that it is no longer suitable as a hospital site, and I understand that the right hon. Gentleman shares this view.
As I explained in my reply to the right hon. Member for Salford West (Mr. Orme) on 30 June, we shall not be able to
estimate the value of the site until we know what future use will be acceptable on planning grounds.—[Vol. 986, c. 1511]
I am considering urgently with others who are interested possible uses for the site. The first step now will be to seek the informal views of the planning authority. Following this, I expect to be discussing whether the site should be developed for commercial purposes, thus maximising the financial return to the NHS—and taking account of the fact that the Hyde Park Corner frontage is a Grade II listed building; or whether there are national or international public uses to which the site might better be put. We must not delay but I am clear that no decision of this importance should be taken without some public debate.