A refusal by Oxford hospital chiefs to release information about land disposal at the Horton has led to speculation about a potential sell-off.
The Banbury Guardian’s Freedom of Information request for paperwork about a review of land and buildings for disposal was refused this week.
The Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUHT) told the paper it held the information but would not release it because it might adversely affect “the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provided by law to protect a legitimate economic interest”.
Chairman of the Keep the Horton General campaign, Keith Strangwood, said the refusal added to suspicion that the current downgrading of acute services could be followed by a sale of some land and buildings.
He said the OUHT was under orders to identify property it could sell according to the Naylor Report, adopted by the Government, that expected trusts to dispose of unused or surplus land and buildings.
“Having taken our consultant service away they have run down the large maternity hospital, which is now practically derelict with its large parking area around it,” he said.
“There is that large former nurses’ home that has been left neglected and is in such awful condition it would cost more to do up than to demolish.
“And we campaigners went to a meeting last summer where the maps the trust produced showed a small midwife maternity unit on the site.
“This is happening all over the country and it makes us feel so helpless. The Horton was bequeathed to the people of Banbury.
“Hiding behind commercial sensitivity seems to admit they are about to sell it.
“If that’s the case, it goes further to prove the trust has already made its decisions about whether the Horton will remain a full district general hospital. And that rather suggests that public engagement and consultation was a sham.
“They were going to do this all along,” he said.
The judicial review into the lawfulness of the consultation last spring goes to the High Court next month.