In 2011 NHS Lothian began consulting representatives of local Community Councils about redevelopment of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (REH) site which would include transferring all facilities from the Astley Ainslie (AAH) site to the REH site. The initial plan was to start consultations with the community in early 2017, in advance of producing a Masterplan for the AAH site prior to a sale in around 2019. The AAH site lies within the boundaries of the Marchmont & Sciennes Community Council and is in the Grange Conservation Area. Three other community councils (Morningside, Grange/Prestonfield and Merchiston) border the site and their residents also have a strong interest in any development on the site. Representatives of the community councils have agreed to work together and use this website to keep their residents informed about any consultation events and they plan to work with the NHS to ensure that any information provided is accurate.
We recognise that some development on this site is inevitable and are working to ensure there is no loss of the much appreciated open space in the AAH grounds. We therefore wish to work with the community to try to ensure that the development is as good as possible. The Grange Association has long been involved with this much loved area and took part in a survey in 2012 to record public use of the grounds (see Grange Association Newsletter No 104 page 10). This led to some of the routes through the grounds being designated as public Rights of Way (see map). We will keep you informed about details of any public meetings on our website.
As a first step, NHS Lothian set up a Forum of interested parties now known as the Astley Ainslie Community Engagement Group, consultation with which will inform the masterplan for the site. Regular meetings started in April 2017. At that time NHS Lothian was working with Hub South East, an organisation that manages major projects for the public sector. They in turn were to appoint consultants to manage the public consultation and sale. City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) had produced a brief for the Astley Ainslie as early as 2002. The plan was to base a masterplan for the site on this 2002 brief. There would be multiple surveys including trees, ecology, archaeology landscaping and architecture which would feed into the masterplan.
Our group was joined by an experienced town planning consultant who lives in the Grange and by a retired conservation architect who was instrumental in establishing the conservation area. In order to better inform the community in preparation for the community consultation, the AACEG set up a series of guided walks round the grounds of the Astley Ainslie in September and October 2017 and May and October 2018. Some 500 residents were shown around the site over the four days. Walkers were given a questionnaire seeking the type of development preferred and development to be avoided. An analysis of the returns received is here.
In early 2017 phase 1 of the new build at REH was completed and a proportion of the patients moved leaving just 80 at AAH, but then there were major changes in the plans. NHS Lothian decided to look at the options in more detail and to give priority to patients moving from elsewhere, meaning considerable delay to the move of the last AAH patients and delay in the sale of the site.
We were told that employing Hub South East, as had originally been planned, would prove far too costly and instead the sale would be managed in-house by NHS Lothian (NHSL). NHSL would draw up tender documents and employ consultants to carry out consultation with the community and draw up a planning brief to replace the 2002 brief prepared by the Council. This would be instead of a Masterplan and would be significantly less expensive. We argued strongly that the community would find a robust Masterplan far more reassuring. There was much discussion about Masterplans and planning briefs and eventually it was agreed that there should be a Planning Brief which would include a Masterplan and be sufficiently robust to ensure that the developers respected the character of the site and of the conservation area as a whole.
NHSL asked us to help it to prepare a contents list for this proposed document. This was produced (click here) and discussed with NHS Lothian in August 2018. It was generally accepted by NHS Lothian, however, there was disagreement as to how much preparatory work such as surveys should be carried out by NHS Lothian before the sale rather than by developers after the sale had been completed. In addition NHS Lothian wanted to omit some items from the list that might in any case be covered by Council policies.
In October 2018 NHSL decided to involve the Council planners who took a very active interest in the sale and offered to work with NHSL to draw up the brief. They now want to call it a Place Brief. We shall try and ensure it is as detailed and robust as the Planning Brief with Masterplan would have been. The initial plan was for NHS Lothian to appoint consultants to draw up this Brief but now it will be produced by City of Edinburgh Council with input from NHS Lothian. Meanwhile the Astley Ainslie Community Trust (AACT), who aim to achieve community ownership of all or part of the site, have carried out community consultation events which it has been agreed can feed in to the Place Brief.
In September/October 2019 further consultation concentrating on aspects not covered so far was carried out by CEC with input from AACEG. This took the form of a series of four drop-in sessions. Our group has provided an early draft Place Brief to the Council. At that time the aim was to submit a finalised Place Brief to CEC Planning Committee in mid 2020. Before they could do that, CEC needed a Heritage and Landscape Assessment. This was to be produced by NHS Lothian with specifications for this Assessment provided by CEC but at this stage a halt was called until NHS Lothian had completed other capital projects and acquired funding for the Astley Ainslie transfer. Once NHS Lothian has completed these, the Place Brief will be written and then adopted by the Council.
The Astley Ainslie site should then finally be put on sale but before bids are accepted a more detailed Masterplan is required. It is hoped that this will include the detail that the community wish to see. It is likely that the Masterplan will be drafted by NHS Lothian in conjunction with the preferred bidder.