PLANS for a major redevelopment of the historic Fordingbridge Hospital were set to be unveiled yesterday.
Hundreds of people were expected at the exhibition, organised by estate agent Saville’s for Landmark Estates, at Avonway Community Centre.
The Grade II listed former workhouse will be transformed into luxury flats if local people are in favour and the sale goes ahead.
The land and buildings are currently owned by NHS Property Services, but are sold subject to contract.
They have been empty for more than a year after services were gradually moved into other buildings, and the deal, thought to be worth more than £1m, has been welcomed by conservationists who want to see its historic facade maintained.
Landmark Estates has been talking to New Forest District Council before buying the building.
A source told the Journal: “Landmark Estates do not want to buy the building if they won’t get permission to redevelop it.”
In 2012, when the former SHIP PCT (now the West Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group) announced it was to sell the building to boost NHS coffers, conservationists feared the building would be left to rot if the costs of converting a listed building proved too high to make a profit.
President of the Fordingbridge Society Edgar Moss said: “My understanding is that Landmark Estates want to redevelop the building into luxury flats.
“This is the best one can do. We do not want the building to be left to deteriorate. A developer would have to spend an awful lot on turning the listed building from a hospital into flats.
“There is asbestos in there so a lot of money would have to be spent on the inside. It is a costly experiment. At first I wondered who would want a luxury flat in the middle of the hospital, but actually, for older people who want to be close to the hospital, GPs and the town, it is perfect.”
The former workhouse is one of 70 listed buildings in Fordingbridge and is thought to be the most spectacular by many people.
A spokesman for New Forest District Council said: “NFDC planning has confirmed an initial enquiry has been made by Landmark Estates, but no application has been received.”
Nine years ago controversial plans to axe the complex were thrown out. The now defunct New Forest Primary Care Trust had published proposals to close all five cottage hospitals in the district and treat more people in their own homes.
But the scheme was scrapped after the Save Our Community Hospitals campaign raised a petition signed by more than 40,000 people.
A major redevelopment of the site was carried out in 2012, with Ford Ward closing to enable the work to be carried out.
Now the ward is in a separate building, and X-rays have moved to Bartons Road, the former workhouse looks finally set for a new use.