Bootham Park Hospital: building should be used for 'public good'
BOOTHAM Park Hospital should be brought back into public use now that plans to convert the former psychiatric hospital into a retirement village have collapsed, local politicians say.
Labour city councillor Claire Douglas said the building had provided a 'public benefit' for the people of York for generations.
"Labour has always said any future use should ensure a significant public benefit remains," she said.
York had a desperate need for supported accommodation for those needing extra care, pointed out Cllr Douglas, the leader of the main opposition group on the city council.
"Recent failed attempts by the council to deliver a health hub, a care home and then extra care supported accommodation at Lowfield Green have brought into sharp focus the shortage of this provision for the city," she said.
"This should now be considered for Bootham Park. Any future development of the site should also secure public access given the importance of green space to resident health and wellbeing."
The council should not rule out the option of trying to buy the building itself, Cllr Douglas added.
"The Liberal Democrat/Green-run council chose not to intervene and buy the site previously," she said. "That option should not be taken off the table again until a thorough assessment of development options has taken place."
- Bootham Park Hospital development dropped because of spiralling costs
- Inside Bootham Park Hospital: photo gallery
Cllr Douglas' call for the building to be returned to public use was backed today by Rachael Maskell, the Labour MP for York Central.
Ms Maskell said there were several possible uses for the building - for health care or research, as a hub for community businesses or new social enterprises, or even as a base for local charities.
Quizzed about where the money to make such uses possible would come from, she admitted that it would require significant investment. But there would be real long-term benefits for the city, she said.
Years had been wasted on a 'failed project' to convert Bootham Park into a retirement village, Ms Maskell said.
"I will be talking to NHS Property services (which still owns the site) to see whether or not we can get some funding," she told The Press.
"Bootham Park has been vacant for a very long time now. This is a special site for the city. (It) should be used for public good."
Dr Bob Adams, a retired consultant psychiatrist who worked for many years at Bootham Park, said he had mixed feelings now that plans to convert it to a retirement village had collapsed.
He said on the one hand he had welcomed the retirement village plans, because they would have meant the grade one listed building wpould have been preserved.
But it would have been at the cost of losing the grade II-listed pauper wings and estate cottages, he pointed out.
In one way the failure of the retirement village scheme did present an opportunity to find a public use for the building, Dr Adams said. "That would be the best use for it."
But he said he was also concerned that the building might now simply stand empty for years.
That's a concern shared by York Civic Trust.
The Trust was 'very disappointed that another scheme for one of the most significant sites in York has unfortunately come to nothing', said chief executive Andrew Morrison.
"Bootham Park Hospital needs a solid and viable future that will benefit York residents and is sensitive to and inspired by the hospital's past history and the surviving heritage," Mr Morrison said.
"Whilst a new developer is found we hope that NHS Property Services will ensure that the hospital and its grounds are well maintained."