Campaigners have launched another attempt to save a wing of Seaton Hospital.
Seaton and District Hospital League of Friends has applied for the hospital to be listed as an ‘asset of community value’ by East Devon District Council (EDDC).
It means if the owner wants to sell it, community groups can pause the sale for six months to try to buy it.
The move comes amid fears the wing could be sold or demolished, as leaseholder Devon Integrated Care Board (ICB) looks to hand it back to its landlord NHS Property Services to save money.
Devon ICB is currently in special measures because of its financial deficit, but pays more than £300,000 a year in rent and other costs.
The construction of the wing was funded by the community. Although some services are based there, it is now mostly empty, and community groups want to launch a health hub that would include services to support dementia patients.
A previous application to make Seaton Community Hospital an asset of community value was made in 2018 but was unsuccessful as the council said it didn’t meet the legal definition to be included.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s cabinet last week, former EDDC councillor Jack Rowland said: “The decision-making process does rely on the interpretation of the definition of an asset of community value as set out in section 88 of the Localism Act .
“My personal interpretation of that act does allow for community hospitals to be listed, bearing in mind the millions of pounds raised by the community to fund the building of a wing of the hospital, and from the League of Friends who provide us equipment and hospice services.”
He called for elected councillors to decide the application, not council officers.
However, since council officers usually decide such matters, it is up to them whether to add Seaton Hospital to EDDC’s list of assets of community value.
MP Richard Foord (Lib Dem, Tiverton and Honiton) has supported the campaign to save the wing by raising the issue in parliament. And the chair of Devon County Council’s health and adult care scrutiny committee has vowed to write to the NHS requesting they meet the community to discuss options.