Work to transform a derelict Tayside landmark could begin as early as next year after fresh photos showed the ruined state of the most substantial building on the site.
There are concerns people breaking into the derelict Strathmartine Hospital could be putting themselves in serious danger, with fire and water damage at the old administration building said to be worsening.
It comes just months after fresh plans were launched to restore the listed administration building on the site and create new housing on the land through a “comprehensive redevelopment”.
Karen McAulay, who has been campaigning to save the hospital site for years, said the current proposals to redevelop Strathmartine Hospital could be the “only hope” to save the historic building.
And she has called on the site’s owners Heathfield Limited to take urgent action to protect the hospital’s listed structures.
Just received over a hundred images of the hospital taken last week (they're also public). It isn't secured, some buildings are open and there isn't any security. What a surprise. Please help @cfotheringham67 @CllrLawrie @AngusCouncil @JennyMarra it is a death trap. pic.twitter.com/vmFqXtqnZl
— Strathmartine (@Strathmartine) May 24, 2020
She said the state of the admin building since her last visit more than a year ago – as revealed in the new photos – was “concerning”, adding: “The majority of floors have totally collapsed on the lower levels, making it really dangerous just on entering.”
She added that the toll of repeated fires and water damage throughout the years has caused most of the floors in the admin building to become soft with “partial collapses” with the second and third storeys “sort of combined now”.
The top floors, she said, are “totally devastated”.
She added: “I am shocked at the state of the main building. It is a disgrace. Particularly when it was entirely preventable. Had there been security on site this wouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
She fears, with schools off until August due to the coronavirus pandemic, “it isn’t going to be too long before a major incident at the site”.
She said: “We are getting to crunch time. These buildings don’t have long left. If development is going to happen we have to wait until it is reasonably safe. In the meantime they (the owners) can provide security.
“There are an awful lot of teenagers going in and out. People rocking up to the site every day in lockdown is just normal.
“It will only be a matter of time before emergency services are called. If it can be prevented by boarding up some buildings, making fences and providing security; I think that is asking for the basics to be covered.”
The man who took the photos, who asked not to be named, said: “It was eerie. There are some bits that are just open for teenagers or anyone to access. I went with a friend. We did have to watch ourselves.
“With the main hospital building, we looked in through the window and we saw the floorboards. It wasn’t worth the risk.”
In response for calls for upgraded safety measures at the site, a spokeswoman for Heathfield Limited said the site is routinely checked for “breaches” by a security guard. The owner is also in “regular contact” with building control at Angus Council.
Planning permission in principle had previously been granted for 224 residential units – 26 flats and 198 new-builds – at Strathmartine Hospital in 2018.
In documents submitted to Angus Council earlier this year, Chamberlain Bell Developments proposed turning the former admin building at the site into 11 homes and converting a cottage into a dwelling.
The firm, who are the proposed developers and do not own the site, also hopes to erect 184 new-build properties and deliver 28 affordable homes at the site.
The proposals were originally due to be debated later in 2020, and Chamberlain Bell Ltd has confirmed the plans are not under any jeopardy due to the pandemic.
‘Hope to be on-site in spring-summer 2021’
Alan Bell, a director at Chamberlain Bell, said: “Our designers are working at a reduced capacity, as are the council. However, we have received a positive response back from the council, who have also received their consultee responses.
“We are in the process of responding to their queries and the design is still ongoing. Everything has just slowed right down.”
He hopes the application will be “pushed on quickly” once lockdown has been “sufficiently eased”.
Mr Bell said a “major redesign” of the roads and infrastructure in the plans has been required due to a requirement to retain mature trees near the hospital entrance.
He added: “We fully agree with this requirement and have been working with the senior planner and roads department manager and, together, we have managed to develop a design that now retains these trees.
“Along with the existing mature trees around the perimeter of the site, the setting for the development is maintained; particularly for the listed buildings.”
On the issue of the state of the hospital buildings, he said the structures “should remain structurally secure for quite a while” – however he said they are dangerous to enter.
He added: “Clearly they are in much need of restoration to bring them back to habitation standard, but structurally I am happy with them.
“The fires are more life-threatening and damage to the use of the listed buildings, but structurally secure – albeit dangerous to set foot in.”
He said if the plans are given the go-ahead, specialist machinery will need to be used to “go up and over the building to remove everything by hand”.
Mr Bell added it is a “slow, laborious and expensive method, but the only safe way to do so”.