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The Future of the Marsden and Brompton Hospitals – Public Debate in the Autumn

The Planning Committee has reviewed all the documentation and has published the summary as follows:

The Brompton Hospital, one of Britain’s leading chest clinics, is operating from several buildings, some of them old, and wants to consolidate in a single, largely new, building between Sydney and Dovehouse Streets.

The Brompton proposes to finance this renewal by selling the outlying parts of its estate, including its Fulham Road wing, for conversion into up-market houses and flats. Is it planning to devote some of the money to rebuilding its outdated, suburban, Harefield branch near Rickmansworth? The CEO denies it.

In 2013 the Brompton, which was considering other sites, was told by Sir Merrick Cockell, the then Leader of the Council, that he wanted it to stay in Chelsea. Draft ‘Supplementary Planning Guidance’, followed in February of this year and suggested that the loss of several buildings, now in ‘social and community use’, could be offset by the gain of a new hospital.

The planning guidance, having been heavily criticised for leaning towards the Brompton’s plan, and for accepting the loss of so much ‘social and community’ accommodation, is being revised and will be reissued for consultation in the Autumn. Meanwhile NHS London is reviewing the case and due to report first.

The key point which the draft guidance missed was the plan of the Marsden cancer hospital to expand across Dovehouse Street into the Brompton’s Fulham Road wing. Why was this not considered by the Council in its draft guidance?

The Marsden, a leader in its field thanks to its links to the Institute of Cancer Research (and the Brompton), is part of a cluster of expertise in cancer treatment with few equals in the world. It too wants to expand and update its plant. Any plan for the Brompton, and any decision by the Council, therefore needs to take account of the needs of both hospitals.

This is a hugely important issue for Chelsea and for London. The country’s medical services benefit all of us when sick and because they treat overseas patients, are an export industry.

Whether to allow more ‘social and community’ land uses to go to housing, which is also in short supply, is at the heart of the matter. Much of value to the community, such as the Chelsea College of Art, Manresa Road and the Kingsley School in Glebe Place, has already been lost.

Bear in mind too that many medical, hospital and educational bodies would jump at buying the Brompton’s buildings if they were sold at their present, ‘community’ value.

The London branch of NHS England has no control over either hospital but wants them to collaborate. It has leverage because it commissions, and pays for, about 85% of their combined costs.

A petition organised by the Marsden will be presented to the Council Meeting on 16thJuly. Cllr Tim Coleridge, Cabinet Member for Planning, will reply.

The Chelsea Society plans a public meeting about the future of the hospitals in the autumn.

In the meantime, it may be useful to ask some questions.

  • Should sales of land by the Brompton be limited to what is needed to enable it to rebuild in Chelsea? Would that reduce the loss of buildings with ‘community’ uses?
  • Could private fund raising in Chelsea and beyond help solve the financing problem without recourse to selling hospital buildings?
  • Might it be best to combine the two hospitals since their buildings are next to one another, enabling them to share some of their services and reduce their costs? It should also allow the Marsden to expand into the Fulham Wing. 
  • Should the Borough Council refuse large-scale change of use of hospital and community buildings to upmarket houses and flats?

If you would like to discuss this further please get in touch with Terence Bendixson or a member of the planning committee.

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