Melton Council has stepped in to try and save some historic buildings at the town’s St Mary’s Hospital site from immediate demolition.
The site, owned by NHS Property Services, was marketed for sale in October as a potential residential and mixed use development opportunity, subject to planning consent.
The land and buildings for sale – which have been vacant for seven years – had been declared as surplus by the NHS.
Standing on the land is a former workhouse dating back to 1836, alongside a former matron’s residence and a building which housed vagrants in cells. It is these buildings that Melton Council wishes to see retained as part of the town’s heritage.
It is seeking to place what is known as an Article 4 direction on the heritage assets. This would mean the new owners of the hospital site wouldn’t be able to demolish the buildings without first submitting a planning application to the council seeking permission. Without the direction, the incoming owner – expected to be revealed this month after all bids have been reviewed – would be legally entitled to knock them down.
The council is now consulting the local community on its proposals. There will be a 28-day period of consultation, with the Secretary of State also being notified. All representations will be considered before the council decides whether to make the direction.
Last Thursday members of the council’s planning committee voiced their unanimous support for the authority to launch a public consultation on its proposals.
Substitute committee member Leigh Higgins said: “This site was where I was born and probably where many other Meltonians were born or gave birth. It’s absolutely vital we look to protect this particular site. Too many buildings in this borough have been knocked down. I think we should make Melton people aware of what could happen and find out what they’d like to see happen on this site.”
Councillor Elaine Holmes said: “I most definitely support this proposal. It’s vital for our town and our community and I hope in the future we have things for people to see that are of great interest which these buildings are.”
Coun Margaret Glancy added: “These are wonderful buildings which we should treasure for the future. I think it’s marvellous that we’re doing everything we can to protect them and I think we should support this Article 4 direction as much as possible.”
An NHS Property Services spokeswoman said: “NHS Property Services is marketing this site because it is vacant and has been declared surplus to NHS requirements.
“The council would like to place an Article 4 direction on some of the buildings to remove demolition rights prior to an application being considered. However, an Article 4 direction will not, in itself, affect the outcome of any planning application. Indeed, proposals for the future of these buildings will be considered on the basis of their heritage value and in the context of any proposals for the redevelopment of the site as a whole.”
In a letter to Melton Council, a consultant expert from the Museum of London Archaeology, asked by NHS bosses to give his advice, said: “The Government has issued guidance on when and how to make an Article 4 direction. The advice is that local authorities should consider making the directions only in those exceptional circumstances where the exercise of permitted development rights would harm local amenity, the historic environment or the proper planning of the area.
“Overall we’d conclude this is not an ‘exceptional circumstance’ and so an Article 4 direction is not warranted.”