A SITE earmarked for care homes for the elderly may instead be used for housing after Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire PCT failed to reach an agreement on its future.

The council wanted the Old Manor Hospital in Salisbury to be transferred to them for free and for government funds to be allocated for its development.

But the Secretary of State for Health turned the council down and the land has been put up for sale on the open market.

Wiltshire Council Cabinet member John Thomson said: “The PCT was sympathetic to the council’s aspirations but they were, and are, restricted by the NHS Estate Code which prevents the disposal of land at less than the market value, other than for primary care, and the proposals didn’t fall into this category.

“We were trying to get something that was needed, restore a listed building and improve a major gateway to the city – I felt we were making a fair offer.

“This has been a missed opportunity, torpedoed at a higher than local level. We may hear about the Government’s commitment to localism but I have to say, unfortunately, the reality is very different.”

Tony Barron, chairman of Wiltshire PCT, accused Wiltshire Council of underhand tactics by approaching the Secretary of State without the PCT’s, saying the “sizeable amount of funding” it requested would have been “ a lot of money” taken away from the health service.

He also said councillors “misunderstood” the law and asked for an apology from Salisbury Area Board chairman Richard Clewer after he told the Journal in November that the PCT was out to get a “bit of profit in their last months of existence” and the sale of land was a “cynical betrayal of the people of Salisbury”.

“PCT staff have worked very hard to ensure the site is used for the elderly,” Mr Barron said at an area board meeting on Thursday.

“It’s not a quick grab for a quick profit – any profit will be ploughed back into developing health care.”

He added that “strong preference” would be given to those developers coming forward with a plan involving accommodation provision for the elderly.