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Nurses’ home plan revealed

MAIDSTONE & Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust is seeking to develop some of its land – but the financial proceeds will not be used to ease its PFI burden. The trust, one of several in the country facing a financial crisis, is struggling to repay a private finance initiative (PFI) contract that was taken out to build the Pembury Hospital in Tunbridge Wells. It has submitted a planning ap- plication to redevelop the former nurses’ home (pictured), on the junction of Hermitage Lane and Oakapple Lane, Barming, to pro- vide 53 residential units. A supporting statement said

the property had been vacant for some time. “The facilities are not up to current standards, the building has a maintenance backlog which has resulted in it being unviable to refurbish, and is a space surplus to require- ments.” A trust spokeswoman said one-off payments to clear debts were forbidden in PFI agree- ments, where a contracted amount is paid monthly. She added: “The planning consent is a way to maximise our income from the sale of the site – we have no intention of building on it ourselves. Any profit from the sale will be put back into trust funds.”

The 53 homes would com-

prise 18 one-bedroom flats, 12 four-bedroom three-storey houses for private sale, eight three-bedroom three-storey houses for affordable rent, six two-bedroom flats, five three- storey houses for private sale and four four-bedroom two- storey houses for private sale. The statement added: “The

main block, together with the adjacent block to the north, forms an urban square at the junction of Hermitage Lane and Oakapple Lane with central landscaped area, reinforcing the urban form and architectural quality.

“Amenity space for residents

has been considered ... to ensure all units have a good level of nat- ural daylight and outlook on to enhanced landscaped areas.” Maidstone Councilwill deter-

mine the planning application, which is in outline form with all matters reserved for future consideration. The cost of the trust’s PFI re-

payment is £1.7 million a month from a monthly income of £30 million. The repayments are set to continue for 30 years, by which time the total bill will hit £612 million – compared with the £228 million initial cost. On top of these payments, the Government is asking trusts to save between £15 million and £20 million every year for the next three years, and staff have been invited to apply for volun- tary redundancy. MP Sir John Stanley has re- peated his call for a public in- quiry into the debt crisis facing the trust. Heath secretary Jeremy Hunt

has already turned down the re- quest from the ConservativeMP for Tonbridge and Malling, say- ing the Government was already undertaking two enquiries, but Sir John claims the need for an inquiry is clear. He says he will be asking Mr Hunt whether the trust is eligible for help from a £1.5billion fund set aside to help cash-strapped trusts.

Failing school

joins winners A PRIMARY school that was placed in special measures by Ofsted is to team up with one of the best performing schools in the country to help it improve. Aylesford Primary School, which was deemed inadequate by government inspectors in September, will join the Valley Invicta Academies Trust (VIAT), based in Huntsman Lane,Maidstone, this autumn. The trust consists of Valley

Park School and Invicta Gram- mar School. The grammar school came within the top 10 schools in the country for last year’s GCSE results. The idea is that staff at the secondary schools will help provide better educational opportunities for youngsters at Aylesford. Roy Ballard, chairman of gov- ernors at Aylesford Primary School, said: “We were looking for a sponsor that has demon- strated its ability to deliver the highest standards of education.” Aylesford will join the trust

in September but has already started working with it and KCC. The council’s area educa- tion officer David Adams said the trust would bring strong leadership and improved stan- dards to Aylesford and provide opportunities for staff from all three schools to share skills and experiences.

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