Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Could the Localism Act be used to save St Helier Hospital?

The internet: not just for pictures of cats...

The internet can be a haven of trolls, some say it is only good for sharing pictures of cats, and anyone who has accidentally hit "Reply All" and broadcast something embarrassing to all their colleagues has probably cursed its very existence. But the internet can and should be our friend. Indeed, something that the KOSHH Party loves about the online world is the way it can be used to share ideas.

And one such great idea has come to our attention via the magic of Facebook. Charlie Mansell, a local campaigner, suggested that the Localism Act could be used to save the hospital. Under this act, St Helier Hospital could be deemed an "Asset of Community Value". Nominations cannot be made by individuals but they can be made by parish councils or groups with a connection to the community. There is no shortage of groups connected to the St Helier community and we are confident many of them would be interested in making such a nomination for the hospital. 

The good news is that there is already an "Asset of Community Value" not too far from St Helier Hospital. In Crystal Palace, another great historic neighbourhood of south London, a former bingo hall is now such an asset. Campaigners hope that ultimately this building will become a cinema for the community.

But there is one obstacle to overcome before we get too excited about the prospect of saving our hospital using this law. The nomination needs the approval of the local council, which is Sutton Council in the case of St Helier Hospital. And Sutton Council is the freeholder for the site, which is a rather unusual situation indeed. We are all acutely aware that the St Helier Hospital site would be worth millions if it was ever sold off. Of course, selling off the site would be shortsighted and devastating to the community and, if elected, KOSHH Party councillors for Sutton would never support such a plan.

We challenge all candidates running for Sutton Council to pledge their support for a nomination for St Helier Hospital to be classified as an "Asset of Community Value" under the Localism Act. As the major parties prepare their manifestos for the Sutton campaign, we hope this will be something they all include as a promise to local residents.

Photography by clausjuntke

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