TWENTY years on from the closure of Mansfield General Hospital residents living near the eyesore building say they are still optimistic it will one day be knocked down.
The crumbling hospital building has stood derelict since it closed its doors for the final time on 13th September, 1992, and local residents have been fighting for more than 14 years to have the site redeveloped.
It occupies four acres of the West Hill Drive area of town and 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.
Campaigners, who say the West Hill Drive site’s crumbling condition has led to a drop in the value of their properties, have fought a long-running battle with Mansfield District Council and site owner, Nottinghamshire businessman Mumtaz Hussein Adam - who bought the site in the mid 90s.
After Mr Adam took ownership, the site was used originally as a school although he insisted the long-term plan was to convert the site into upmarket apartment blocks.
In 2005 he was given planning permission to transform the hospital buildings into 133 apartments and announced in November 2008 that he was starting work on the development - but since then there has been little activity.
With such false promises, the hopes of residents have been raised and dashed in equal measures but despite a high-profile campaign - which has attracted the attention of the national media - there has been few signs of progress.
But the saga, which is one of the longest running stories in Chad’s history, finally took a step forward after a motion was passed by Mansfield councillors in July to acquire the building subject to legal and final advice.
Speaking on the 20th anniversary of the hospital’s closure, Roy Bainton, chairman of the West Hill Residents’ Association, says he is feeling more optimistic than ever about the site’s future but says there is a long road ahead
“At long last we feel we are making significant progress and we have much greater hope than we have in the past. I’m 69 now and I said I didn’t think it would be knocked down in my lifetime but it might be now,” he said.
“It has been a long boring struggle and we are heartily sick of it, we’re tired of finding new angles of outrage and complaint to take forward but now we’re happy to let the council get on with things.
“It may take two or three more years to get a compulsory purchase order but after so long what’s a few more years.”
Roy says owner Mr Adam has broken promises to build apartment blocks on the land and the site owner has blamed Mansfield District Council for the lack of progress.
“For three consecutive years we have been promised by Mr Adam that the first apartment blocks would be up by Christmas, Mr Adam claims he is being held back by the council and others in his endeavours, he blames everyone but himself,” he added.
“But the point is that we do not want people to waste public money, it is about regeneration. Sites like Mansfield Brewery and the hospital are major blemishes on the town but the General Hospital is hidden away so it is a case of out of sight, out of mind, but it is an ideal place for some good social housing.
“There is a long rocky road ahead but we feel we are making progress and as a residents’ association we can give ourselves a pat on the back, we have never let the situation rest for more than two or three months at a time. We think the situation is now going to change and because of this we are willing to let the council get on with it.”
Tracey Roberts, of West Hill Drive, has lived opposite the gloomy buildings for 28 years, but believes that finally the problem could be resolved.
“I think now that the Labour council has got involved there seems more willingness to deal with Mr Adam, hopefully things will come into fruition,” she said.
“It has attracted anti-social behaviour in the past, crime and drug issues and people walking past don’t think twice about chucking rubbish on the site because they say it is already a mess.
“I have to apologise when we have friends coming round because of where I live and I never thought I’d never have to do that.”
Resident Jenson Scott said: “It is a relief that we are actually seeing some movement on the hospital. I have lived here for 14 years and the quality of the place has gone,” he said.
Mansfield mayor Tony Egginton says he has enormous sympathy for the residents and will continue to battle to get the site redeveloped.
“I have done everything in my powers to encourage the owner to bring forward the plans for redevelopment and I will continue to work extremely hard to try and resolve it,” he said.
“I really feel for the residents who have had to live with it for such a long time but we have done everything to help Mr Adam move things forward.”
Mr Egginton says Mansfield District Council should have bought the hospital when the Regional Health Authority sold it to the current owner in July, 1994.
“The council did not have the foresight to buy the real estate,” he added.
“We all know what has happened to the construction industry since but we can only do what we can within planning legislation.”
In a statement Mr Adam said yesterday: “My time and resources are now directed to deal with the threat of Mansfield District Council issuing a compulsory purchase order.
“I hope folks will put things into perspective - just weeks ago the chancellor reported that England is in the longest double dip recession since records began.
“It is the construction sector that is the worst affected. Since the start of this recession very large numbers of developers have gone bankrupt including leading firms such as Thomas Fish, of Nottingham, and others have frozen their developments.
“Even the Goliaths such as Barratt Homes and George Wimpey and David Wilson Homes have been affected.
“This is a time of austerity - councils are cutting jobs and services up and down the land. It has been a long and very difficult road - let me continue.
“It is my money that I am spending, not the taxpayers. I would like to take this opportunity to reassure all those who have supported me in the past and continue to do so, but I am soldiering on and working very hard to develop the site despite the recession and austerity.”