NHS Trust defends £5.3m spend on Asda car park and water main
A Welsh NHS Trust has defended spending nearly £5.3m on upgrading a superstore’s car park and associated construction work as part of a project to build a controversial new cancer centre.
The work is being paid for by Velindre NHS Trust at the Asda store in Coryton on the northern outskirts of Cardiff, adjacent to a replacement for the existing Velindre Hospital.
A high profile campaign has opposed the chosen site for the new hospital on environmental and clinical grounds. Local residents object to the new cancer centre being built on a well-loved green area known as the Northern Meadows while clinicians argue that it would make better sense to co-locate the centre with a district general hospital.
In 2018 planning permission was granted by Cardiff council for the new hospital to be built and two years later permission was granted to fell 122 trees for access to the hospital. To enable access to the hospital from the north, the plans involved the reconfiguration of a road and the Asda car park.
Around 11,000 people signed a petition opposing the plans, but the council claimed it was “invalid” as it did not include a planning reference, signatures or email addresses. A second petition opposing the plans, signed by 443 people, was accepted.
In recent days the Save the Northern Meadows campaign group posted a message on X, formerly Twitter, which said: “During this NHS Wales financial crisis Velindre Trust are spending £4,469,093 on upgrading Asda Coryton car park. Owned by 2 billionaires. And now Velindre are asking [Health Minister] @Eluned_Morgan for another £829,000 to divert a water main near the car park.”
Altogether, the cost of the car park and water main works amount to £5,298,093.
Asda was bought in 2021 by Mohsin and Zuber Issa, who share a £5bn fortune, according to the Sunday Times rich list, grew up in a terraced house in Blackburn and started their empire with one petrol station in nearby Bury after working in their father’s garage. They made their fortune through buying up forecourts across the UK, and then globally, to build a business with more than 6,600 outlets funded largely by debt.
Today, the brothers live in a complex of five newly built mansions that can only be glimpsed from their leafy Blackburn street as they are nestled behind high walls and security gates, with views of the nearby countryside and access to a pool, cinema and private prayer rooms.
Just down the road, the brothers, whose parents came to the UK from India in the 1960s to work in the textile industry, are financing the building of a new mosque. They also reportedly own a £25m London mansion and used interest-free loans from EG Group to buy two Bombardier private jets.
There is no suggestion that Asda, or the Issa brothers, should be funding the work at Coryton, which has been prompted by decisions about the siting of the new cancer centre.
A spokesman for Velindre University NHS Trust said: “Our ongoing work at Asda Coryton is a key phase to develop our new Velindre Cancer Centre which is vital in safeguarding the provision of crucial cancer treatment and care for the 1.5 million people of south Wales over the coming decades.
“We are pleased to report that work at Asda Coryton is progressing well and is on schedule. Part of our work near Asda involves the construction of a bridge, which will serve as the primary access route for our patients and staff to reach the new cancer centre.
“Entry from this location will provide several improvements including better access for around 80% of our patients who travel to us from outside Cardiff, moving traffic away from Whitchurch and changes to the road layout on the Asda site benefitting drivers using the area and approach road.
“We needed to use a small section of the existing car park and our team is currently in the process of returning it to its original condition as agreed with our colleagues at Asda. The original Asda works costs were approved in February 2022.
“Before works began on the Asda site, further site investigation discovered a water main in an area not compatible with our planned alterations to the existing access road off Longwood Drive. As a result the water main needed to be diverted.”
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