Updates & Blog

Public Meeting Tues 24 Oct at St Catherine’s Argyle

You are warmly invited to a public meeting about the Sick Kids site on Tuesday 24th October from 7-9pm at St Catherine’s Argyle Church, 61 Grange Road EH9 1TY.

It is open to all and will be a chance for us to bring people up to date on the right to buy process, as well as discussing what next for Marchmont & Sciennes Development Trust and community ownership at the Sick Kids.

Along with the community council, we met with the developer this week so we’ll be able to bring people up to date on that as well.

The developer has not ruled out some form of community-ownership on a part of the site – though obviously if anything is to happen it will be on a much smaller scale than what we originally proposed.

They have left the ball in our court but time is tight so the meeting will be pivotal in determining whether there is still appetite for trying to achieve some community-owned elements in the new Sick Kids site, and what form they might take.

If any of our supporters have the time it would be great if you could share this on social media or print out the poster below and put up in your window / stairwell / notice board etc.

 Lastly, if anyone wants to volunteer to help with the logistics of the event (flyering and set-up) then do let us know.

We look forward to seeing you on October 24th.

Sick Kids Public Meeting October 2017 A4 poster


Sick Kids sold to private developer before our bid is even considered

Yesterday (Friday 15th Sept), NHS Lothian announced that it has sold the Sick Kids to a private developer called the Downing Group. 

We had been spending the last month addressing an additional technical requirement of our second submission, and had got the paperwork into the Scottish Government last week – seemingly at around the same time the sale had been agreed. Indeed, the Scottish Government told us two days ago (Thursday) that it had issued a notice to NHS Lothian by recorded delivery to say that, under the terms of the legislation, the Sick Kids sale process should be paused.

However, a day later, NHS Lothian announced it had reached a deal with the Downing Group and that missives had been concluded on September 5. You can check out what the developer calls their “educational portfolio” here.

Our application was thought of by many as an ‘acid test’ for the new urban Community Right to Buy laws, and we feel gutted, as will many people in the community, that we did not get the chance to have our application considered and to show how it would work.

Affordable co-operative housing, healthcare, additional school and nursery facilities, space for social enterprises and a multi-purpose community hall were among the ideas being put forward from community members via our group. The reality of the NHS decision is that, of these sorts of community benefit proposals, only the bare legal minimum is likely to happen now. You only have to look across the Meadows at Quartermile…

We really feel that the Scottish Government and Holyrood must look seriously at the string of technical challenges brought up, and delays well beyond timescales that the legislation states, in order to help other communities make more effective use of this law in the future.

Right now though, this is not the end of the road for us and we will be in touch with our supporters in the coming weeks to gauge the appetite for engaging with the preferred bidder, and to explore other ways we can continue to contribute to the transformation of our local area.

Submission of fresh bids for the Sick Kids hospital

MSDT has now submitted new bids for Community Right to Buy of the Sick Kids site.

The previous bid was held up after complex land ownership issues around the 122-year-old hospital revealed that although it is being marketed as one site, it is owned by two separate legal entities: NHS Lothian and its charitable trust, the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation.

Under the terms of the legislation, the Sick Kids sale process has now been paused and Scottish Ministers have 30 days to decide if MSDT should get first refusal on the site.

The past few weeks have involved an intense effort from our unpaid volunteers to try to clear up complex land ownership issues, but we have been sustained by the growing support for the bid from across the community.

The renewed submissions were made with the continuing belief that this route is currently the best way to ensure a community-led development which is focused on issues directly relevant to the people living in Marchmont and Sciennes.



Notice from the Scottish Ministers

Last week we received a letter from the Scottish Ministers notifying us that they have ‘declined to consider’ MSDT’s application to register community interest in land. The reason given is to do with land ownership, and there are more details in our press release below.

This is technically not a decision to reject the application, but it does mean that the NHS’ sale process that had been paused with our first submission, has now resumed. We are however looking to re-submit applications in line with new title deed information that we are trying to uncover, so that our vision of community ownership might still have a chance of being realised.


A community group’s bid to buy a historic Scottish hospital has been delayed by red tape.

The Scottish Government was considering an application by residents living next to the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh to be given first refusal to buy the site under new urban ‘community right to buy’ laws.

But the process has stalled after complex land ownership issues around the 122-year-old hospital revealed that although the four-acre facility is being marketed as one site, it is owned by two separate legal entities.

This means the Marchmont and Sciennes Development Trust (MSDT) has had to drop its single application to be given first refusal on the site and will now submit two separate bids to Scottish ministers to try and gain control of the iconic hospital.

The two landowners at the Sick Kids are NHS Lothian and its charitable trust, the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation.

MSDT has today asked both the health board and foundation to release all of the tittle deeds it holds for the land and buildings in order to get beyond this impasse.

However, this latest development effectively means that a suspension of the sale process – ordered while the Scottish Government considered the original right to buy application – has now been lifted and health chiefs can resume talks with short-listed private developers.

Affordable co-operative housing, healthcare and nursery facilities, space for social enterprises and a multi-purpose community hall are among the ideas for the Sick Kids already suggested by MSDT – the community body representing local residents.

A MSDT spokesman said: “This complication is disappointing but not unexpected given it is a complex site and it is a bid that really tests the new legislation.

“We are now focused on definitively determining who owns which parts of the site and submitting the two applications that could ultimately see the community take control of the Sick Kids site when the NHS moves out.

“We have asked the health board and the foundation for help with this task as they hold the relevant title deeds, a move which will benefit all parties as it would speed up the process and get us all closer to a decision on whether MSDT should get first refusal on the site.

“This site remains a dream opportunity to bring this historic hospital under community control.”

Next Steps for the Sick Kids application – May 2017

We are currently awaiting a decision from the Scottish Ministers on our application to register community interest in land at the Sick Kids site. If granted, it means that the Community Body (MSDT) would have first option to buy the land.

In the meantime, we are preparing to commission a feasibility study if our application is granted. The Community Right to Buy process allows for a period of 8 months to conduct a valuation, a community ballot and a community led feasibility study and business plan.

The valuation

Scottish Ministers will appoint an independent valuer to conduct a full market valuation. The price to pay will be one of the following:
• the amount agreed between the two parties;
• if no agreement is reached, the market value of the land as assessed by the valuer; or
• if the valuation is appealed, an amount to be determined by the Lands Tribunal for Scotland.

Community ballot

A ballot of all eligible voters within the community will be conducted. The ballot will be conducted by a ballotter who is appointed by Scottish Ministers.

Feasibility study and business plan

The community body will commission a feasibility study to look at what options could work on the site. The first vital stage of this study is to engage the community and other stakeholders to gather ideas of what is needed in the area and consider how the site could be used to meet these needs. There will then be a business plan prepared around these proposals to investigate their viability, and to make further proposals as needed.

MSDT will be inviting multi-disciplinary teams with experience in community planning, architecture and business planning to tender for the study very soon.

The flowchart below shows where we’re at in relation to the overall Community Right to Buy process. (ScotGov graphic with MSDT coloured annotation)

Community Right To Buy

Application submitted!

A press release was issued today (28.3.17) to announce that our application to register community interest in the Sick Kids site has been lodged and that the owners of the site have now been notified to pause their sale process whilst the Scottish Ministers make a decision on our application:


 SCOTTISH ministers are facing the first big test of new laws to extend the ‘right to buy’ to urban areas with a new community-led bid for one of the country’s most famous hospitals.

Residents living next to the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh have submitted an application to the Scottish Government to be given first refusal on the four-acre site being sold by NHS Lothian.

Affordable co-operative housing, healthcare and nursery facilities, space for social enterprises and a multi-purpose community hall are among the ideas suggested by local residents if the Marchmont and Sciennes Development Trust (MSDT) bid is successful.

The city centre hospital is due to close and move to a new facility on the outskirts of Edinburgh next year, and MSDT is facing competition for the 122-year-old facility from private developers keen to build luxury flats.

MSDT spokesman, Nathan Bower-Bir, said: “This is a significant test of the Scottish Government’s ambitious plans to give the ‘right to buy’ enjoyed by rural communities to those living in towns and cities.

“The hospital is dearly held by people both locally and across Scotland. Whilst we’re sad to see it move, this is a dream opportunity to bring this historic site under community control and put it to the benefit of all of us – not just the well off.

“The people of this community are driving this idea and it is clear they want more than what we have seen at other city centre sites sold off, where developers cram in as many expensive flats as they can and fence off any green space from public access.

“This is a opportunity for ministers to show that these laws are not token gestures, but in fact are significant acts of reform that truly empower local communities.“People living here see the great potential of preserving the Sick Kids’ heritage as well as revitalising our local area.

“We hope the Scottish Government can match our ambition and the ambition shown by Holyrood in passing this legislation.”

Residents have already held three public meetings to discuss the future of the hospital and a petition has attracted significant community backing.

The site is part owned by NHS Lothian and its charitable trust, the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation, which uses donations and legacies to improve the physical and mental health of the people of Scotland.

The first urban community buy-out under the Scottish Government is expected to take place in Portobello with a community takeover of a redundant church, but the Sick Kids plans are on a much larger and more complicated site.

When the community right to buy law was passed, the then local government minister Derek Mackay called it a “momentous step forward”. The Scottish Government currently has a target to double the amount of land under community ownership to a million acres by 2020.

The MSDT application has now been submitted to the Scottish Government’s community land team alongside letters of support from local businesses and politicians.

Under the terms of the legislation, the Sick Kids sale process has now been paused and ministers have 30 days to decide if the MSDT bid should get first refusal on the site.

For a PDF version, click here.

Slides from the Public Meeting 21.2.17

The slides from the public meeting are now posted online here.

Below is a record of the questions that were asked and discussed on the various aspects of the MSDT Community Right to Buy process and application to register community interest in the Sick Kids Hospital. It is not possible to immediately record all answers here, but they will be added to the FAQs as soon as possible:

  • Legal process and who would pay the legal fees. MSDT answered that the process is very closely regulated as set out in Scottish Government information leaflets. MSDT would have to cover its own legal fees.
  • Value of  the site. MSDT answered that the the agents had suggested a guide of £20m-£25m
  • Details of membership organisation. MSDT answered that members would all have one vote each.
  • ‘Public interest’ – meaning and implications
  • Setting up a housing coop – would it be a registered social landlord (RSL)? DR from Planning Action Group for Sick Kids (part of MSCC) answered that they had also had discussions with the planners about social housing requirements.
  • Demolition/retention of the various parts of the site
  • Where proceeds of the sale would go
  • Partial purchase of the site
  • Calculation of potential housing/resident numbers
  • Sustainable healthcare provision
  • Current landownership
  • Housing for homeless people
  • Demonstration of ‘harm’
  • Application submission dates
  • Requirement to provide 25% affordable housing
  • Inclusion of space for the school to use
  • Concern over heritage aspects and recent de-listings
  • Future communication/feedback to community. MSDT took an attendance record with the opportunity to leave contact details for those who wishes to receive updates.
  • Requirement to meet sustainable development goals
  • Section 75 agreements (Planning gain)
  • Robert McDowell (Summerhall) presented information on his recent bid made for the site
  • A contact from the landowner was also present and gave information/clarification on various queries noted above