Astley Ainslie Hospital Progress from February 2019 to March 2021

More Recent Updates

The community has been working with NHS Lothian about the future of the Astley Ainslie site since 2011.  Earlier work can be found by clicking here.

This page gives more updates from February 2019 to March 2021 it is a series of mini reports. Updates from August 2021 onwards are found here.

Progress is currently halted while other capital projects take priority in Lothian. However the Astley Ainslie redevelopment features in the Lothian Strategic Development Framework 2022-2027 for year 2/3 and in the Edinburgh Proposed Cityplan 2030.

February 2019

NHS Lothian has involved the Planning Department of the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) who are keen to play an active part in specifying the opportunities and constraints presented by the site, prior to its disposal.  They will require NHS Lothian to carry out surveys including ecology, landscape and archaeology.  CEC are holding workshops and anticipate having a parallel stream of consultations about planning matters while NHS Lothian and its consultants hold the formal consultation with the community, including open meetings and workshops.  This formal consultation together with the CEC consultation stream and the survey reports will then enable CEC and NHS Lothian and its consultants to prepare a Place Brief which will replace the 2002 Development Brief for the site.

This Place Brief will be submitted to CEC’s Planning Committee for endorsement and adoption, when it will become “Material Consideration” for any planning application. As bids come in, NHS Lothian and its consultants will use this Place Brief to assess their suitability for the site.  Then when planning applications are made to CEC, the planners will use the Place Brief as approved guidance.  However, in order to protect the special nature of the site, the AACEG will press for the brief to be more proscriptive than normal planning guidance. We shall try and ensure that the brief will have sufficient detail to ensure any development is compatible with the conservation area and will show the buildings to be retained and where new buildings could be sited although it would not necessarily give details of how existing buildings might be altered.

We held a very well attended open meeting on 14th February 2019. At that time NHS Lothian were about to appoint consultants.  The community consultation would then have taken place through 2019 with perhaps major workshop events just before and just after the summer holiday season.  The final Place Brief would have been produced by the end of 2019 or early 2020.  After the brief’s adoption by the Council the site would have been put up for sale in 2020/21.  NHS Lothian would finally withdraw from the site some time between 2023 and 2025. The business plan for all this was not yet agreed, so all the dates were only approximations.

The Astley Ainslie Community Trust is a separate group who hope to achieve community ownership of all or part of the site.  They attend meetings of the Astley Ainslie Community Engagement Group and have their own meetings with NHS Lothian.  They have been given funding from the Scottish Government to consult with the community and hold events.  It was anticipated that their consultation would start in March 2019 and not clash with the formal consultation to be arranged by the consultants appointed by NHS Lothian.

March 2019

The Community Engagement Group (CEG) held a packed open meeting at the Eric Liddell Centre on 14th February with very helpful contributions from Edinburgh Council (CEC) and also from the Astley Ainslie Community Trust (AACT).  NHS Lothian’s Development Manager has been on sick leave since December which has delayed matters for the NHS.  Like the CEG, AACT must consult with the community.  They have been given funding from “Making Places” for this consultation, but it has to be used by the end of March. There would inevitably be a lot of overlap between their consultation and that of the CEG. To avoid this, it had been suggested that the consultations might be combined. Initially NHS Lothian felt that this was not possible because they needed a stand-alone consultation that was seen to be independent, however, CEC persuaded them that the initial part of the consultations could indeed be combined.

AACT carried out a number of consultation events in March 2019 including meetings on Saturday 23rd March and Sunday 31st of March. The CEG helped with these meetings.  Over 300 people attended the first day which concentrated on getting ideas for the site. The consultants will then put these together and present a draft analysis on 31st March. The results will be used to inform the Place Brief.  It is unclear whether this brief will be written by CEC (to replace the 2002 brief) or by consultants employed by NHS Lothian.  If the former, it is possible that a Masterplan will also be required to provide additional detail.

May 2019

A further public meeting was held on 9th May, sponsored by the Labour party.  Further questionnaires were handed out to the audience.
Following the community consultation events in March, the Community Trust (AACT) have produced a final report.  This was discussed with NHS Lothian, the Council Planners and AA Community Engagement Group on 27th May.  The Trust stressed the importance of open green space and buildings with sunny south aspect. Building should be low-rise in order not to obstruct views and constructed around the open spaces. The Trust would keep the listed buildings and others of value and new build would be eco-friendly. Public access to the site would be maintained and vehicles kept to the edges of the site. The Council Planners were still absorbing the inputs and may require additional consultation but this would be targeted to any items not already covered. Ecological surveys would be made of protected species. The Council is keen the site should meet the needs of the community not just its aspirations. They suggested looking beyond the edges of the site and making the site more part of the surrounding community. They will lead the production of the Place Brief, at that time aiming to put it before the Planning Committee in early October. It was clear that they saw the brief as a high level document giving principles rather than detail. They insist it will be non-statutory, the only statutory policies being those in the Local Development Plan. Because it will lack detail, planning applications would have to be accompanied by a master plan for the site. It remained unclear who would draw up this plan. Notes of this meeting are here.

July 2019

There was a further meeting with the Council planners, NHS Lothian and the AACT on 8th July.  CEC plan to carry out further consultation in late August or early September to complete the community consultation. This will be aimed at the four neighbouring community council areas and will ask different questions from the AACT consultation.  They plan then to produce a draft Place Brief for comment in November with the final version going to the planning committee in February 2020.  They do not want the Place Brief to be too prescriptive but agree that a very important aspect of the Brief is how robust it will be.  NHS Lothian do not consider this further delay will cause problems.  CEC and AACT also plan to hold a Nature Discovery Day.  Click here for the booking website.
NHS Lothian reassured us that the Astley Ainslie site will not be put on the market before the final Place Brief has been approved by the Council.
AACT are approaching the Scottish Land Fund and considering both Community Right to Buy and Asset Transfer.

August 2019

CEC has arranged four consultation events and we are hoping for a good turnout to complete a questionnaire. This is the last opportunity for you to give your views. The events will be:-
Monday 26th August 2 – 7 pm at Open Door, Morningside Road
Tuesday 3rd September 2 – 7 pm at Newington Library
Wednesday 4th September 2 – 7 pm at Eric Liddell Centre at Holy Corner
Monday 9th September 2 – 7 pm at Marchmont St Giles church

October 2019

There was a meeting with NHS Lothian, the Council planners (CEC), and the Community Trust (AACT) on the 14th of October.  CEC has held four drop-in sessions and has received 312 completed questionnaires. Those responding were particularly keen that the open green space should be protected and expressed concerns about traffic and parking.  CEC now needs to have a Landscape Assessment before it can draw up the Place Brief. CEC will give NHS Lothian details of this requirement, but the plan was that the Place Brief would be delayed until the spring and be finally approved by CEC in mid 2020. After this it is anticipated that NHS Lothian will produce a more detailed Master Plan for the whole site.  NHS Lothian felt this might cause a further delay in approaching the market for sale which was thought likely to be early 2021.  The final movement of facilities from the Astley Ainslie Hospital to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital depends on many factors including the construction of the phase 3 building at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, relocation of other services to elsewhere in Lothian and the arrangements by the Joint Integration Board. It is likely the site will be finally vacated in the “mid 2020s”.

January 2020

We had a further meeting with NHS Lothian and Council planners (CEC) on 20th January. The requested Heritage and Landscape Assessment is under way but not yet complete. CEC are waiting for this before writing the Place Brief. This further delay means the Place Brief will not be presented for approval to the Council Planning Committee until May, or more likely August 2020. NHS Lothian is not concerned about this delay because phase 2 of the redevelopment of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital is held up and has to be completed so that services are available for construction of the phase 3 development which will house the Astley Ainslie patients. It was confirmed that a Masterplan for the Astley Ainslie site will also be required. It will give detail over and above the Place Brief. This will be produced by NHS Lothian, probably in conjunction with the preferred bidder for the site.
Meanwhile NHS Lothian plans to demolish derelict buildings including the boiler house off Cluny Place and the former Mobility Centre.
The AA Community Trust reports that they have funding for a feasibility study and business plan for consultants to “give a clear vision and viable model for community ownership, development, and operation of the Astley Ainslie site”. They are going out to tender for this contract in the week commencing 20th January. The tender documents can be found here.

April 2020

There is very little to report. The Council planners are still waiting for the heritage and landscape assessment which is being arranged by NHS Lothian, but it is not yet available. Work on the place brief will commence as soon as the assessment is available. Meanwhile everything is delayed even more by the Covid-19 pandemic with staff working from home.

July 2020

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Astley Ainslie site remains in lockdown in order to protect the vulnerable patients. There has been no progress with the Place Brief. NHS Lothian has, however, put in an application for consent to demolish the old boiler house at the Cluny Place entrance and the dilapidated huts behind St Roque which used to house the Mobility Centre. We are reassured by both NHS Lothian and CE Council that there will be appropriate surveys to ensure protection of any bats or badgers.

October 2020

Work is under way to demolish the boiler house and old mobility centre. We are reassured that bats and other wildlife are being protected.

At the end of August there was a spate of tree work in the grounds which included some tree felling. We are assured that this was necessary emergency work as a matter of safety.

Other progress on the site remains suspended awaiting the Landscape and Heritage Report from NHS Lothian.

December 2020

Consent has now been granted for the tree work in the TPO area, with the following condition: “Within 12 months of commencement of the approved work replacement trees are to be planted for the trees being felled. The size, species and location to be agreed with the planning authority.”

February 2021

There is still no news from NHS Lothian and so far we have been unable to arrange a virtual meeting with them. Meanwhile the Trust (AACT) have published their Feasibility Study. 

March 2021

NHS Lothian has issued the following statement:

“At this time the focus of NHS Lothian remains that the Astley Ainslie Hospital is an active healthcare site pending a further review of the business cases for service reprovision. This will be undertaken in the light of the Scottish Government’s spending review and return to a nearer normal working status post pandemic. An updated potential disposal programme (including advance studies or works) is not available yet.”

Daniel Johnson MSP tells us there was a recent Health Board Briefing and he understands that the length of the delay is totally unknown. It could be several years. The focus, at the moment, is on running the Astley Ainslie Hospital as an active NHS unit.
We are hoping to get a firm commitment from NHS Lothian that they will not proceed with a sale before the Place Brief has been produced and the community consulted.

When further news is available, we shall post it here.