NHS privately planning to develop Royal Free nurses’ home into luxury flats

‘One Hyde Park-style’ apartments to replace housing for London staff, selling for up to £10m each

The NHS is privately marketing a 100-year-old hospital building that provides affordable housing for 52 nurses and other key workers to property developers to create a One Hyde Park-style complex of luxury flats overlooking Hampstead Heath.

The Royal Free hospital is promoting Queen Mary’s House – – as “Hampstead Gardens … a rare opportunity to create one of the most desirable new-build schemes in London”.

The hospital’s Hampstead-Gardens.com website shows architect’s plans to convert the site into 162 luxury flats in four five-storey blocks with underground car parks. Local agents said the three-bedroom penthouse flats could sell for up to £10m each. They put the total sale value of the scheme at about £280m.

Otto Schwalowsky, 26, an intensive care nurse at the Royal Free who has been living in Queen Mary’s House for nine months, said it was “a real shame” that the hospital was considering selling the building, which was gifted by Leverhulme for use as a maternity ward. “NHS hospitals have to have key worker accommodation,” Schwalowsky said. “We [NHS staff] don’t get a huge amount of money anyway, so it’s good to be able to walk to work.”

Schwalowsky said he would not be able to afford to privately rent anywhere to live nearby. “Rents in Hampstead are at least triple [what we pay here], you’d have to get a room share,” he said.

John Cudjoe, 63, who lives in a room a few doors down from Schwalowsky, said he was worried he might become homeless if he loses his affordable housing. “A one-bed flat is about £1,400 a month – that’s all my wages gone. I’m stuck,” he said.

Cudjoe, who has worked in health records at the Royal Free for 30 years and earns about £19,000 a year, said the trust has sold several other key worker accommodation blocks in recent years. “We wouldn’t be the first residential place they’ve sold,” he said. “They seem to be doing quite a lot of selling their affordable properties for development.”

The trust has not submitted a planning application to Camden council but has told developers it has held “a pre-application meeting with the local authority to discuss a change of use to C3 residential”. The building is classed as C2, meaning it is classified as a hospital or care homes.