CAMPAIGNERS living around Mansfield’s former General Hospital site say progress is finally being made after councillors vowed to finally resolve the future of the town’s most notorious eyesore.
The crumbling hospital has been derelict for more than 19 years and has been blamed by residents in the neighbourhood for bringing the value of their properties down.
It has been a magnet for anti-social behaviour in the past and today remains in deterioration with boarded up windows, fencing and strewn with knee-high weeds.
During a lengthy meeting of Mansfield District Council on Wednesday, community leaders voted unanimously in favour of acquiring the derelict site subject to legal and financial advice after the motion was proposed by Labour Group leader Martin Lee.
Residents living near the West Hill Drive site have fought a long and bitter battle with Nottingham businessman and site owner MH Adam to get the building demolished and replaced but now feel there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Roy Bainton, chairman of the West Hill Residents’ Association, described the authority’s decision as a major shot in the arm for residents but says there is long road ahead before the area can be regenerated.
“It is a major breakthrough for us but we are under no misconceptions as to where it leaves us,” he said.
“This is the first time we’ve had a concerted effort by the council, it is only a motion at the moment and there is a long road ahead before it is bought or there is a compulsory purchase order is made and I should imagine that Mr Adam will put up a vigorous fight.
“But the people we have elected are finally recognising our campaign and have realised that the hospital is an embarrassment.
“We’re not under any illusions but this decision vindicates our campaigning and is a major shot in the arm for us although we’re not opening the champagne yet.”
During Wednesday’s council meeting, a secondary motion to conduct a feasibility study into the finances required to acquire the site was rejected after being proposed by Coun Roger Sutcliffe, Mansfield District Council’s deputy mayor and portfolio holder for resources, and supported by Coun Kate Allsop.
Coun Sutcliffe said the authority had to take into account what the financial implications are before attempting to purchase and it would be unwise to press ahead without a thorough investigation.
“I was disappointed that councillors Sutcliffe and Allsop wanted a feasibility study - the hospital is rotting, nothing is happening and I do not see the need to bring in expensive consultants.
“The council just needs to work out how to buy the building and what to replace it with.”
Resident Tracey Roberts, of West Hill Drive, has lived in the shadow of the gloomy old buildings for nearly 30 years and said she is feeling more hopeful now after years of disappointment.
“We’ve had so many years of battling against false promises but we’re now interested in what the next stage will be,” she said.
“There is still a little bit of scepticism as to what the council will do if they bought it but I think we are past the stage of worrying about that now.”
During the meeting, Coun Martin Lee said that the council had a duty to eradicate the dereliction of the former General Hospital site.
“The site for too long has blighted this town particularly those who live in its immediate vicinity, to do nothing is no longer an option and there is serious doubt as to whether Mr Adam will bring forward the plans he made in the planning application,” he said.
Coun Paul Henshaw added: “The time for action is upon us and I think by adopting this motion something will now be done.”
Mayor Tony Egginton said that the council has made many efforts over the years to deal with the problem of the General Hospital site and would continue to move forward to solve the issue to the satisfaction of everyone.
Planning permission was granted in December 2005 to change the use of the buildings to residential apartments but no work to develop the site has taken place apart from some minor drainage works.
In 2010 the Mr Adam complied with a notice pursuant to Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act issued by the Council to tidy up the site, board up broken windows, cut back overgrown trees and weeds and remove rubbish.
Chad was unable to contact Mr Adam for a comment this week.
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Roy Bainton, right, chairman of the West Hill Residents’ Association, pictured with members outside the former Mansfield General Hospital.
Also pictured from the left are; Kevian Fegan, Olivia Morton and Tracey Roberts.