Health bosses defend farm acquisition

HEALTH bosses have defended their decision to buy farm land to turn into a car park, claiming it was a “sound investment”.

Naomi Gornall

HEALTH bosses have defended their decision to buy farm land to turn into a car park, claiming it was a “sound investment”.

Outrage was sparked after it was discovered that NHS Suffolk spent �475,000 of public money on the project without the full approval of the board or a public consultation.

Although health chiefs recently admitted should have discussed with the public the decision to buy the farm opposite their Bramford headquarters in Paper Mill Lane, they are confident that the purchase will “generate a good return on disposal at a later date”.

A report from NHS Suffolk's chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown, which was presented at a meeting of the Board yesterday, stated: “The acquisition represents a sound, medium term investment which should generate a good return on disposal at a later date, whilst at the same time presenting an opportunity to reduce some existing revenue costs and options for use for some community health related projects.

“The governance which underpins the decision is sound, as is the financial rationale for the acquisition.”

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The report added that although moving to the headquarters site in Bramford three years ago was not popular among all stakeholders, it was agreed it was a low cost option with the most convenient road links.

Julian Herbert, the Board's director of finance and performance, told the meeting that a park and ride scheme was an option considered to cope with the lack of parking at the site, but was discarded as it was too costly.

He added that by not setting up a park and ride scheme saved �100,000 a year.

He said: “This building wasn't purchased because we had spare capital. It was purchased for business continuity reasons.”

However the report concludes that there are lessons to be learned from the experience.

It stated: “The delay in sharing detail of the purchase pending development of the planning application has been unhelpful and has led to misunderstanding by stakeholders and a degree of disquiet and criticism.”

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