Questions challenge council decision to refuse community asset status to Ottery Hospital

Ottery St Mary Hospital entrance. Ref sho 7454-44-14TI Picture: Terry Ife

Ottery St Mary Hospital entrance. Ref sho 7454-44-14TI Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Council bosses have been challenged after refusing to make Ottery Hospital an asset of community value (ACV).

Ottery St Mary councillor Roger Giles questioned the decision at last Wednesday’s full meeting of East Devon District Council (EDDC) - arguing that more weight was given to landowner.

The town council submitted ACV request in the summer, but it has been rejected by EDCC along with bids for Axminster, Honiton and Seaton hospitals.

EDDC rejected the bids on the ground they did not meet the definition of ‘community asset’, or the ‘social wellbeing’ aspect, under the Localism Act 2011.

The ACV designation can apply to buildings such as community centres, libraries, swimming pools, village shops, markets and pubs.

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Cllr Giles said the ACV status would give the community six months’ first refusal on the purchase of the building, which is owned by NHS Property Services, if it went on the market.

Cllr Giles said he was concerned about the process the council used to determine ACV requests when Teingbridge, North Devon and Waveney district councils have designed local hospitals with the status.

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The leader of the council, Ian Thomas, provided a written answer, saying: “The weight given to the NHS objection in this case was high.

“It addressed the legal position under the act and if the owner had taken the matter to the first tier tribunal, there would have been a very high chance that the NHS would have successfully argued that the site should not have been listed on the grounds they identified.”

Law firm Bevan Brittan, acting on behalf on NHS Property Services, wrote that the 2011 act was primarily related to leisure activities.

The solictors argued that health services could not be considered under the definition of social interests.

After the meeting, Cllr Giles said:“Very regrettably EDDC chose to give greater weight to the views of the owner of Ottery Hospital, than it did to the views and the needs of the people who depend on Ottery Hospital – people who EDDC should listen to and provide proper services for.

“The decision made by EDDC was wrong.

“The reaction to my questions was disappointing.

“However I am determined to continue the fight to save Ottery Hospital.”

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