The NHS could be forced to hand over part of the Dulwich Hospital site for a new secondary school after a local councillor formally referred the matter to Government Ministers.
A decision on its future will now be made by a panel comprising of Treasury Ministers and the Cabinet Office after East Dulwich Liberal Democrat councillor James Barber invoked new ‘Right to Contest’ powers to push the NHS, which owns the land, into selling it on.
Despite the site being 27,000m² – the size of around four football pitches – currently less than a tenth of the space is being used.
Cllr James Barber, who submitted the application last week (5 February), says he wants to see half of the spare land used for a new secondary school to help plug the shortfall of permanent school places in the area. Land would also be available for the health centre already being planned on the site.
It is thought to be one of the first applications of its kind in the country, after the new powers were introduced by the Government to free up public land and help boost economic growth. Launching the scheme in January, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP said the Government “should not act as some kind of compulsive hoarder of land and property” that could be better used for other purposes.
Cllr Barber’s application will now go forward for review by the Government panel, which will also see input from the NHS and the Department of Communities and Local Government before a decision is made.
Commenting, Cllr James Barber (East Dulwich) said:
“Sadly after 20 years of false starts the Dulwich Hospital site is still in limbo. It is a criminal shame that so much land stands idle and under utilised for decades, especially when money is tight.”
“Dulwich desperately needs a new local secondary school – not children being bussed far and wide as Labour propose. That’s why we have submitted an application using new Right to Contest rules on the use of public land, which were introduced by Liberal Democrat Ministers in government.”
“We are on the side of local parents who want to see a new and much-needed secondary school in the area, and an end to Dulwich Hospital being left as an empty wasteland.”