THE old Downe Hospital site in Downpatrick will now go on the open market following a decision by Health Minister Edwin Poots. The hospital closed down in June 2009 when patients transferred to the new Downe facility in the town.
A spokesperson for the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said: “All property disposal is governed by procedures set out by the Department of Finance and Personnel. The first stage is a public sector trawl to determine if any other part of the public sector may have an interest in the property which is surplus to Trust requirements.
“In the case of the former Downe Hospital, St John’s and Pound Lane sites, no interest has been obtained. The next stage is disposal by private sale. Estate Agents BTW Shiells have been appointed following a regional tender and a project team chaired by a Senior Trust Manager is now in place. This group also has a representative from DHSSPS and Land and Property Services. There will now be monthly meetings to review progress.”
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has welcomed the move by Health Minister Poots to finally put the whole site on the market. She said: “I have been pursuing the redevelopment of the former Downe Hospital, St John’s Residential Home and Pound Lane Clinic sites with the Minister for Health, and I am pleased the Minister has now confirmed that these sites will be placed on the open market in May 2013.
“The sites will go on the open market with planning approval for mixed use development. I will be pursuing the Department of Health to ensure that the agent responsible for the disposal of the site undertakes a rigorous advertising campaign to ensure that every possible opportunity is taken to highlight the economic and social benefits of regenerating this substantial town centre site.
“It is vital that we do everything within our power to promote the redevelopment of this prime location for the betterment of the local community and the development of our local economy.”
A Department of Health spokesperson added: “A disposal team has been set up and once a disposal strategy is agreed, including the number of lots, the property will be put on the open market and that is envisaged to be in May 2013.”
The new £64-million Downe Hospital located at the Downshire Estate in Downpatrick opened its doors in June 2009, and staff and patients finally moved out from the old Downe Hospital site close to the town centre. The old hospital had since ben subject to vandalism and both the St John’s and Pound Lane sites were subject to serious arson.
Speaking at the opening the new hospital in 2009, Hugh McCaughey, Chief Executive of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, said that he was delighted to see the spectacular new hospital open to patients. He said: The old Downe Hospital is now over 200 years old and the development of the new hospital has been widely welcomed and greatly anticipated by the Downpatrick community, health campaigners and politicians who actively campaigned for over 30 years to have a new hospital built in the town to deliver care close to where people live.”