Skip to main content

Redundant Hospital Sites

Volume 114: debated on Tuesday 7 April 1987

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy for the future use of redundant hospital sites in the green belt.

In the next few years many older hospitals, especially those for the mentally ill or mentally handicapped, will no longer be needed. A number of these hospitals are located in the green belts. The Government have been considering how planning for the future of these redundant hospitals can best be handled having regard to green belt policy as set out in DOE circular 14/84.Local planning authorities are responsible for considering the future of individual sites. When it is known that particular sites are likely to become redundant, it will often be appropriate to bring forward policies or proposals for the future use of those sites when considering alterations to structure or local plans. Some planning authorities are already doing this. Because there are a number of sites in several areas my Department has prepared guidelines to assist local planning authorities in preparing policies for the sites and in dealing with any planning applications relating to them. I and my inspectors will have regard to the guidelines when dealing with any planning appeals or structure plan alterations which come to me for decision.Many of the sites share common characteristics. The original hospitals are often large groups of buildings and were typically built between 50 and 150 years ago. Many ancillary buildings for different purposes have been added since. The hospitals are often on the edges of built-up areas and stand in large open grounds.In planning for the future of these buildings and their sites the aim should be to use them for purposes compatible with the green belt as set out in circular 14/84, which can include institutional uses. The size, layout and form of the buildings may, however, make them unsuitable for such purposes. In such cases it will be necessary to consider whether, in the terms of the green belt circular, "very special circumstances" exist that would warrant the change of use of the buildings or the construction of new buildings.In some cases it may be possible to convert the existing buildings for housing or other uses, perhaps with some demolition of ancillary buildings. But if that is not a practical solution the future of the buildings and the site, and the possibility of redevelopment, will need to be carefully considered. Putting the sites to beneficial use will be preferable to allowing the buildings to remain empty and the site to become derelict. Those are special circumstances that may warrant a change of use or new development. Planning permission will be required if there is to be a change of use of the existing buildings or if new buildings are to be put up.Whatever the future use of the site it should be planned with careful regard to its contribution to the green belt and to the amenity of the area—for example, landscaped grounds and mature trees should be preserved and maintained and opportunities should be sought to open up parts of the site to public access.

Guidelines for the future use of redundant hospital sites in the Green Belt

  • i. Re-use of the existing buildings for purposes within the accepted green belt categories (as set out in DOE circular 14/84) is the preferred option, especially where the buildings are of architectural and historical importance. There may in particular be scope for re-use by institutions.
  • ii. However, if there is little or no prospect of viable re-use within those categories, other uses are preferable to allowing the buildings to remain empty or grossly underoccupied. The aim should be to achieve redevelopment for other suitable uses by conversion of the existing buildings.
  • iii. If the existing buildings, or part of them, are unsuitable for conversion, redevelopment should not normally occupy a larger area of the site nor exceed the height of the existing buildings. The location of the new buildings should be decided having regard to the main features of the landscape and the need to integrate the new development with its surroundings (for example it may be more appropriate to site new development closer to existing developent).
  • iv. The amenity value of the site should be retained or enhanced where practical by preserving mature trees and keeping or laying out landscaped areas, and if possible opening them to public access with adequate provision for their maintenance.
  • v. Redevelopment should not normally involve additional expenditure by the public sector on the provision of infrastructure (for example on roads and sewerage) nor should it overload local facilities such as schools and health care facilities.
  • vi. Local planning authorities should where appropriate include policies on these lines in their development plans.