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Wolverhampton Council offered £1 for city's crumbling eye infirmary

By Annabal Bagdi | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

The council made multiple offers of up to £1.1 million before offering £1 to the NHS trust which owns the site.

Wolverhampton's eye infirmary has been closed for a decade

Council bosses offered an NHS trust £1 to buy Wolverhampton's rundown former eye infirmary site, a court has heard.

Wolverhampton Council’s low bid was tabled just after it had served an enforcement notice on the trust to carry out urgent repairs, Dudley Magistrates Court heard.

It was rejected before the council upped its final offer to £550,000 for the Compton Road site, where five fire crews battled a blaze on Wednesday evening.

But The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust instead accepted an offer from private investors.

The two authorities are now in a court battle over the enforcement notice served following allegations the NHS trust had failed to keep the site in a reasonable condition.

The trust claims the ‘extraordinary’ notice is unfair and should be quashed.

The infirmary site has been empty since 2007.

From £1.1 million to £1

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Wael Nabih, head of estates for development at the trust, confirmed the council made multiple offers to buy the site, with an initial £1.1 million bid in January 2017.

Council officers then made a verbal offer for £1 after serving the enforcement notice but were told other potential buyers would be considered.

The offer was increased to £350,000 and then to £550,000 just before Christmas last year, Mr Nabih said.

But investors from BZ Property Holdings Ltd had already signed a contract following their successful undisclosed bid and are now set to acquire the site next month.

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Mr Nabih added: “This was the only unconditional offer, it was not the highest offer. The highest offer was around £1.3m.”

Enforcement

The council served its enforcement notice last February after claiming the trust failed to carry out required repair work.

It gave a total of seven months to sort a raft of issues including replacing broken windows, clearing vegetation, removing rubbish and repairing perimeter fencing.

Trust bosses were also ordered to replace damaged windows and doors, as well as areas of the roof.

The council claimed not all work was completed by the September 20 deadline. But the NHS trust has lodged an appeal and is calling for the notice to be quashed or amended.

'Manifestly unfair'

Ms Alison Ogley, on behalf of the trust, told Dudley Magistrates’ Court the notice was ‘fundamentally flawed’ and was served ‘abruptly’ by the council.

She added: “The notice is unreasonable on its face, as is the time scale. It is, in my submission, manifestly unfair.

“It is rather extraordinary that the council has seen fit to make such serious allegations against another public body.”

The eye infirmary, which opened in 1888, closed when services moved to New Cross Hospital and has stood empty since 2007.

The hearing continues.

Annabal Bagdi

By Annabal Bagdi
@AnnabalB_Star

Senior reporter based at head office in Wolverhampton.

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