South East conference keynote: Health and housing
At a time when the housing sector needs land in order to develop new homes, the surplus land held by the NHS could be an excellent partner to assist in the delivery of this increased supply.
A panel discussion learned from Duane Passman - of the local Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals - that the pressures within the NHS were such that land disposal was not necessarily an immediate priority. Waiting list targets and A&E waiting times were pressures with greater priority. And yet the links between health and housing are apparent. For example, Duane cited statistics that 3.5 million homes in our country have pests and damp which costs the NHS £1.4 billion each year.
If land disposal forms part of an NHS trust’s estates strategy, the sale of any land would be at market price which would not necessarily assist in the delivery of affordable housing. Brian Reynolds from the Cabinet office emphasised the government’s drive to release surplus NHS land for sale but could not foresee this being at a value less than open market value. However, the panel did recognise the opportunities for the two sectors to work closer together and Patrick Vernon described some of the initiatives being led by the NHF. If we can find a common language and improved communication between the two sectors, it is possible, for example, that NHS foundation trusts would be willing to do business with housing providers, possibly through joint venture models.