Backlash in Hampstead over Royal Free Hospital plans to sell off Queen Mary’s House for luxury flats

Queen Marys Hospital

Queen Marys Hospital - Credit: Archant

Hampstead campaigners have hit out at plans by the Royal Free Hospital to sell off Queen Mary’s House in Heath Street to developers to build high end luxury flats.

Queen Marys Hospital

Queen Marys Hospital - Credit: Archant

Although the hospital has not put the site, currently providing affordable accommodation for NHS workers, on the open market or published its plans, It has started privately marketing the prime site near Whitestone Pond to developers and interested parties to “establish the level of interest.”

The hospital has also informed current residents, who are all on shortterm leases, of its intentions.

A password-restricted website has been set up to promote the 100-year-old former maternity hospital as “Hampstead Garden - a rare opportunity to create one of the most desirable new-build schemes in London.”

Janine Griffis who chairs The Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum, which was set up to protect the village, told the Ham&High: “Recent reports have drawn attention to the Royal Free’s plans to sell the Queen Mary’s site in Hampstead for up to 162 “luxury flats”. The site is currently providing affordable housing to more than 50 key workers such as nurses and teachers.

“Another “luxury” development is not what local people need or want, according to our public consultations. The Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan, written by the local community, sets forth key housing policies, including the development of more social housing and smaller, more affordable units as intermediate housing.

“Hampstead has lost enough social and affordable housing over the past few years, especially with the loss of the nurse’s accommodation in New End.”

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Royal College of Nursing London Regional Director Jude Diggins, said: “These clandestine plans to replace affordable key worker housing on NHS land with luxury flats worth up to £10 million is nothing short of disgraceful and an insult to hardworking and dedicated health care staff. Rents in the area are sky high, yet instead of seeking to extend and improve the availability of affordable housing for its staff, the Royal Free is intent on selling its land to the highest bidder and uprooting people from their homes – the general public, who NHS land belongs to, will not be impressed.

“We will be challenging these plans all the way. NHS land is public land and should be used to provide the affordable housing people need, not line the pockets of high-end estate agents and luxury property developers.”

In a joint statement, Hampstead councillors Oliver Cooper and Stephen Stark said: “we are concerned by the proposal to fully transform Queen Mary’s House into luxury flats: a project dubbed ‘Hampstead Gardens’.

“With the movement over the decades of services that were at Queen Mary’s to the Royal Free’s main site, it makes sense for the Royal Free to want more staff accommodation near Pond Street.

“However, it makes little sense for Camden to miss out on this opportunity to increase the number of homes for key workers.

As the Royal Free expands – with its expenditure in Hampstead up by well over £100m since 2010 and its staff numbers in Hampstead rising – it needs more, not less, staff accommodation.

“Hampstead has lost a huge number of affordable properties in recent years: undermining our social mix and making it harder for Royal Free staff to live locally.

“In part, this is because of ever-higher property prices. But it’s also because Camden Council has refused to apply its own requirement for affordable housing to be preserved. This requirement is enshrined in policy H5 of the Camden Plan and previously in Camden’s Development Policy 4, but it’s often ignored.

Hampstead Conservatives have fought strongly against the loss of hundreds of affordable housing units and key worker accommodation across Hampstead, such as the Hyelm flats at 79 Fitzjohn’s Avenue and the nurses home at 29 New End.

“Sadly, despite the damage done to the social mix and local community character, both were given the go-ahead: by Camden’s Planning Committee and the Planning Inspectorate respectively.

“At a minimum, Hampstead Conservatives urge Camden Council to make it clear that development will not be permitted on this site unless it preserves key worker accommodation on a like-for-like basis in Hampstead.

“Ideally, the site – with indicative plans showing a massive 160,000 sq ft (15,000m2) of usable floorspace – affords plenty of opportunity for the site to continue to host accommodation dedicated to key workers as well as the new private properties required to fund new worker accommodation on Pond Street.

“However, as we’ve seen, all the rules, plans, and policies in the world can’t stop bad developments if Camden doesn’t enforce those rules. Camden must immediately set out its stall and guarantee that no development can go ahead at Queen Mary’s unless it preserves Hampstead’s unique social mix and character.”

The historic building, which was dedicated by Queen Mary in 1921 and rededicated by the Prince of Wales in 1992, houses 52 nurses, teachers and other key workers paying for single rooms with shared kitchens and bathrooms.

The Ham&High has contacted the Royal Free for a statement.

A spokesman for the Royal Free told the Guardian newspaper: “No decision has been made to sell Queen Mary’s House. The Royal Free London must use its estate in the most efficient way to ensure we can deliver the very best care to our patients. With this in mind, a process to market QMH has begun to establish the level of interest in the site with a view to a possible sale in the future.

“Any future developers would need to also provide affordable housing in the area. Residents – who are all on short-term leases – have been informed and the trust is committed to finding them alternative, affordable accommodation should the site be sold.”