NHS land sales to private developers are all about private profit, not affordable housing for nurses

NHS land is being sold to private developers – but four out of five of the planned homes for sale will be unaffordable to nurses. Only one in ten of the planned homes will be for genuinely affordable social rent. The average expected sale price for the new homes is 10 times the annual salary of a nurse.

Research carried out by the New Economics Foundation involved a comprehensive analysis of the 59 NHS sites that have been sold so far under the Government’s public land sale programme.

Before the Naylor Report has even got off the ground, this makes a mockery of its plan to sell off NHS land for affordable housing.

In West Yorkshire, Persimmon Homes was required to build 30% affordable housing on the site of Pontefract General Infirmary, but after pleading ‘financial inviability’ this was reduced to just 6%.

This is a scam made possible by a clause in the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF),  which states that developers’ schemes ‘should not be subject to such a scale of obligations and policy burdens that their ability to be developed viably is threatened’. It means that developers can appeal planning obligations if they can prove they hinder the commercial viability of their schemes, using something called a ‘financial viability assessment’.

Persimmon made pre-tax profits of £775 million in 2016.  In 2017 the Persimmon boss scooped a £50m bonus on New Year’s Eve. He stands to gain another £60m this year, as the company hands out a £500m bonus to 140 senior staff. The company’s profits have rocketted thanks to George Osborne’s right to buy subsidy to first time house buyers that started in 2013. Basically the bonuses are public money redistributed to rich bosses.

The Elmfield House site in Halifax , which the New Economics Foundation identifies as sold by Calderdale Council to an unknown developer, resulted in the construction of 14 houses, all for private sale, and none at an “affordable” price.

Elmfield House provided a base for a range of services provided by South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, including the Lower Valley Community mental health team and the Assertive outreach team. These services have now moved to the Laura Mitchell Centre in Halifax.

The website ‘nethouseprices’ shows that Elmfield House sold for £325K in December 2016.

The map showing NHS land that has been sold is here.

The New Economics Foundation research has found that, of the planned homes for sale, four out of five will be unaffordable to a nurse on an average salary. And where they could afford the mortgage repayments, a nurse would have to save for an average of 53 years to afford the deposit.

The average expected sale price for the new homes, based on area estimates, is £315,279. This is 10 times the annual salary of a nurse.

The research also shows instances – as on the site of Pontefract General Hospital – where the developers who make profits from public land are sometimes able to avoid affordable housing requirements altogether.

This completely invalidates the Naylor plan. When it was published last year, we said it was a scam designed to profit private companies.  Project Phoenix, a national NHS initiative to bring private firms to the table and share profits with them, was intended as a big part of the future.

The New Economics Foundation research bears this out.

And the NHS land the Naylor Report proposes for sale as “surplus to requirements” really is not – we are desperately short of hospital beds, as the current situation in hospitals across the country shows. We can’t afford to lose more hospital beds.

Regardless, a second Naylor Report is expected, according to an October 2017 BMA report. Naylor says its recommendations are “pretty controversial”.

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