St Albans six bed house left empty since 2012 at the cost of more than £100,000 to the taxpayer

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:10 19 January 2016

A house in Hill End Lane remains vacant

A house in Hill End Lane remains vacant

Archant

An NHS Trust has been slammed after leaving a six bedroom house vacant since 2012 at a cost of approximately more than £100,000 to the tax-payer.

Herts Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust was gifted a six self-contained bedroom property in Hill End Lane, St Albans, following the closure of Hill End Hospital in 1995.

But the property, which closed its doors in September 2012, has remained vacant with running costs of about £29,000 every year, according to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted by Gordon Whiteford, of Glenlyn Avenue, St Albans.

The concerned resident walks past the property daily and has become increasingly frustrated about the unused building.

He has posed numerous questions to the trust relating to the costs and future of the house but has yet to receive a satisfactory response.

Gordon said: “Since August 2014 I have been trying to get a local NHS Trust to make a redundant six bedroom house available for use by the local community, for homeless families or key workers.

“Despite my requests for action to both the trust and council, nothing has been done to halt this waste of taxpayers’ money and it deprives local persons in need of temporary housing the opportunity to make use of such a valuable social amenity.

“The chief executive of the trust, Tom Cahill, has declined to answer my most recent questions- perhaps he is ashamed or embarrassed by the trust’s casual handling of taxpayers’ money and lack of moral conscience? This is a scandal that should not be tolerated.”

Gordon wanted to know why the trust did not offer the building, which was initially built to house single men struggling to find accommodation, to the district council, which has a lengthy housing waiting list.

He added: “I know that on day one they didn’t plan to leave it this long but they’re now spending £29,000 a year on it.

“I just think that after three years it’s just stupid [to still have it empty].

“When someone tells me that there’s an empty house that can be used by the community that’s been losing money it’s infuriating.”

The property has now been put on the open market, according to a trust spokesperson and Monitor, the independent regulator of the trust.

In response to St Albans MP Anne Main, who sent a letter to Monitor on behalf of Gordon, the regulator said that they were satisfied that there was not a value for money issue as the sale price has risen from approximately 400k to 600k.

Gordon continued: “I did not see the request sent on my behalf by Anne Main MP but several questions remain unanswered.

“Has the trust paid 150 per cent council tax premium? The local authority has discretion to charge this penalty once a property remains empty for over two years.

“Does the trust own other empty residential property?

“Has the trust at any point in the last 40 months approached the local authority to see if any temporary housing use could be arranged?”

The trust did not response to his questions when contacted by the Herts Advertiser.

A spokesperson said: “The trust is satisfied that it has acted within the publics’ interest in exploring appropriate opportunities and alternative options for the building whilst working within NHS Estate code guidelines.

“As we have exhausted all possible avenues we have now taken the decision to sell the property on the open market with the proceeds being reinvested in local services.”

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