WESTBURY Town Council is investigating what steps can be taken to fight for the town’s right to the ownership of the hospital site.
The NHS is due to sell off the hospital site once the new White Horse Health Centre in Leigh Park is complete. But some residents believe that the land and hospital was gifted to the town before the NHS was even created, and therefore remains under the town’s ownership. Local resident Eddie Bridges has obtained a copy of the deeds for the hospital and taken them to local solicitors Pinniger Finch & Co. He is calling on the town council to instruct and fund the solicitors to take their investigations further.
Following his request, the town council has agreed to send two representatives to the solicitors to discuss the town’s options. Councillors say that, although they are sceptical of the town’s chances of proving ownership of the hospital and site, an initial meeting does not commit them to any course of action and they are willing to find out what the options are. Cllr Bill Braid said, “If there is something we can do, we should not let it slip away from us. This is a very valuable asset for the town.” Cllr David Jenkins pointed out that councillors do not yet know where the town stands. “We don’t really know what we’re talking about. The hospital has a very sentimental place to the people in this town. For the sake of a conversation it is certainly worth the exercise. I, and a lot of people, will be interested to find out the outcome of this.”
Paid for by the people of Westbury
As well as obtaining the deeds, Eddie Bridges has been researching the hospital’s history in the hope it will help with the fight for the site. “The land that the hospital stands on was donated by Dr Shoreland, way back in the early 1900s. There was a referendum or consultation to find out what people would like done with the site. The opinion was a hospital, and the council agreed, and the Laverton family paid for the first half of the hospital, the Victorian part.
“The back – the newer part – was paid for by the people who lived and worked in Westbury, either on a weekly or monthly donation, collected door to door. Then of course the National Health Service was brought in in 1948 and the hospital was taken in.
“Since then, apparently the League of Friends have raised over £1million which has been ploughed into the place. That’s all been raised in the Westbury area, so that’s got to be looked at.
“I took a copy of the deeds to Pinniger Finch & Co, because I couldn’t understand the legal jargon. But now, for any more instruction, we need the town council. I can’t get involved financially, I’m a pensioner. Whether the council feel that, after a meeting with Pinniger, Finch, & Co, they can do anything, that’s up to them.
“Mike Pearce, who was on the group that fought the closure of the hospital, says there are funds left from that fight that can be used for this one, up until the 29th August.
“I hope the council will do something, but I need to pursue my own avenues. Otherwise, if the council drags its feet, there’ll be a ‘for sale’ sign up on that site.”