THE sale of Wessex Fields has been recommended to be done through an open market process by a cross-party group. 

University Hospitals Dorset (UHD) has been having negotiations with BCP Council about the potential of buying the site behind Royal Bournemouth Hospital and seen by the side of the A338.

A cabinet report for April said UHD indicated it wishes to develop the site for medical, health, technology and research development with hospital keyworker housing.

But the future of the site will be decided at a full council meeting in April following recommendations 

The cross-party asset disposal group met up earlier this month to debate how the site should be sold and it was agreed it should be an open-market sale. 

Bournemouth Echo: Mike CoxMike Cox (Image: BCP Council)

It was "satisfied that the principles were being met by the proposal from UHD" but was concerned over the "relatively short timeline and a desire to be able to demonstrate that best value had been obtained via an open and transparent process".

The group recommended the site should be marketed on an open market for two to three months, with the expectation that the highest offer being the preferred preference of disposal.

Until now, it had been expected to be sold off-market to UHD. But that may not be the case. 

Cabinet member for finance Mike Cox said: “As with any asset sale, due diligence was undertaken by council officers to help members understand the options available to the council around the Wessex Fields site.  

“One of these options is a direct sale, at an agreed RICS Red Book Valuation, to the University Hospital Dorset NHS Foundation Trust.  

“Using this due diligence, the council’s cross-party asset disposal group have since recommended that options to sell the Wessex Fields site on the open market should also be explored.  

“Both options are due to be considered by the overview and scrutiny board on 2 April. Their views will be fed into the cabinet discussion on the 10 April, which will then see a recommendation debated by council.” 

Bournemouth Borough Council bought the land for £2.25million in 2017 with plans for it to be an “employment-led” science and technology park. 

University Hospitals Dorset NHS Trust has started building a link road from the slip road off the A338 southbound to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital site for staff and ambulances only. 

Ward councillor Lawrence Williams said: “This is a really important site for Bournemouth and the wider region, allocated as a science and technology employment zone with infrastructure already in place to serve it, alongside a requirement to deliver a new, through-road to alleviate congestion in this area.  

“We saw from the soft market testing a few years ago the great deal of interest in the site, and an open market sale – whilst still not as beneficial as the council staying involved in the scheme – will nonetheless ensure that council taxpayers are getting the very best price for the site, in an open and transparent way.”

The council’s urban regeneration company FuturePlaces was tasked with coming up with an overall vision for Wessex Fields before it was closed down earlier this year.

It was from there that officials decided it was no longer a priority site for the council going forward - Dolphin Leisure Centre, Holes Bay and BIC/Winter Gardens were the three remaining priorities.

UHD then approached BCP Council in October 2023 with an offer - which the council cannot reveal at this stage.