It was supposed to go out to the PFI market this summer, but a further delay has hit the £800m “health campus” planned for Paddington. Fours years after it was first proposed, what hopes are there for one of the UK’s biggest PFI deals to get off the ground?
Creating a campus for two NHS trusts and facilities for one of the UK’s leading universities is clearly a difficult process. Combine that with building the 190,000m2 of new space on a tight piece of land in Paddington and you have what’s best described as a nightmare. Such has been the troubled conception of the Paddington Health Campus project.
The latest twist will see the team behind the plans come up with a new outline business case (OBC) for the scheme by the end of October, surely the last chance that project has of getting off the drawing board. After all, the first OBC for the project was put forward nearly four year ago, in November 2000. The decision to draw up the new OBC follows the findings of an as yet unpublished review into the project carried out by the Department of Health, the Treasury and the National Audit Office.
This time the project team has plumped for a new option. Instead of building the new super hospital on land presently occupied by one of the hospitals that will be replaced, St Mary’s, the team are now eyeing up land owned by developer Chelsfield. This is just north of St Mary’s hospital on the other side of a canal. Julian Nettel, chief executive of St Mary’s, told Building this week the team would set this aside other land configurations in the areas, as well as the option of basing the campus in Chelsea, in land occupied by another of the trusts behind the scheme, the Royal Brompton & Harefield trust.
Nettel said the Chelsfield-option offered advantages for PFI consortia bidding for the project. He said: “Using that site offers advantages to build time and site configuration. It simplifies the construction process and makes the redevelopment much more attractive to consortiums.” Nettel added that £800m would be a “ballpark figure” for the scheme.
A statement released on Monday by the North West London Strategic Health Authority said the project has received the green light from the government review. Chief executive Steve Peacock said: “While we acknowledge that there is still further planning to be done leading up to negotiations with a PFI provider, this green light for the OBC is the boost we need to take the project to the next stage.”
However to add to the confusion surrounding the scheme over the past months and years it appears that the review has yet to be finalised, despite claims that it had backed the project by the health authority. An NAO spokesman told Building on Wednesday: “Any statement about the conclusions (of the review) are therefore premature.”