DEVELOPMENT Landowners 'broken' by year-long negotiations

Published: 17/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5947 Page 11

The team behind the beleaguered Paddington health campus scheme is adamant it can still go ahead - despite categorical assurances from exasperated landowners that they had withdrawn from negotiations.

Paddington Development Corporation Ltd this week admitted that it had been 'broken' by the year-long negotiations over the value of its land in the Paddington Basin, which is crucial to the£1bn project.

And a spokesperson for the company told HSJ that it had no intention of continuing negotiations with Westminster city council which made a last-minute effort to rescue the private finance initiative by agreeing to swap land it owned in the borough in return for the PDCL plot.

But St Mary's trust chief executive Julian Nettel refused to accept that the scheme - which would develop St Mary's, Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals on the same site and had the backing of prime minister Tony Blair - was on the brink of collapse.

He said PDCL had indicated that it was 'very happy to re-engage' with the project, despite a PDCL spokesman stating firmly 'we have stopped working on the whole thing'.

'We were feeling completely worn down and broken, ' the spokesman added.

'We are not in any discussions with Westminster [city council] at the moment. There is nothing going on and there are no meetings planned. As far as we are concerned, unless we get a direct approach from the Department of Health, we are getting on with other business.' But Mr Nettel, who helped draw up the business case for the project, refused to be defeated. 'Westminster city council will be going back to them with our consent and agreement very shortly to talk about the land deal.

'There may be no meetings planned, but we can re-engage with them very quickly. We are in contact with them on a daily basis, so is the council. And things will be developing in a very short time frame.' Council chief executive Peter Rogers said he was also still committed to developing a health campus at the Paddington basin. 'The authority believes the campus offers a final opportunity to provide the standard of health provision that central London needs as well as completing the regeneration jigsaw in the Paddington area.' The DoH had been considering whether to approve an outline business case for the scheme since December. A source close to the negotiations said PDCL had become frustrated with the DoH's inability to reach a decision.

'The civil servants in the DoH have got so many different agendas and this is not on any of them. The prime minister might want the scheme but his civil servants are singing from a different hymn sheet, ' he added.