A JUDGE has dismissed a challenge by the county’s NHS trust over a refusal to ask developers for millions of pounds for hospitals in exchange for building 2,200 new homes.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has lost its case against Worcester City Council, Wychavon District Council and Malvern Hills District Council over claims the three councils had acted unlawfully when rejecting its request for £1.84 million from developers when approving a huge urban extension in 2021.

The trust, which runs Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester, had taken the three councils to the High Court on five grounds but the Honourable Mr Justice Holgate threw out the appeal saying the decisions by planners were neither unlawful nor invalid.

Council planners maintained throughout the row that the hospital trust had left the request for funding contributions too late and allowing the extra money to be paid to the hospital would mean existing agreements would have to be renegotiated.

In his judgement, the judge said the county’s hospital trust did not speak to the council about the request for millions of pounds in crucial funding when a decision was first made by planners about the 2,200 new homes in 2018 and had not challenged decisions on three other sites between 2019 and 2020 when there had also not been a request for funds from the NHS.

“For a public body wishing to obtain a section 106 contribution that is most unusual, and contrasts with the approach taken in this case by … other public bodies,” he said.

Mr Justice Holgate said the hospital trust had shown “no interest at all” in the urban extension for the 42 months between January 2019 and October 2021 and the NHS trust had “no evidence explaining the long periods of disinterest and delay.”

“The last gap between October 2021 and October 2022 is particularly striking,” the judge said. “The trust had referred to viability issues for the first time and had an opportunity to take the matter further if it thought that worthwhile.

“It did nothing.”

Planning applications – particularly large-scale plans – are usually approved in principle before planners and developers work out funding agreements – known as section 106 money – to pay for infrastructure such as bus routes, schools, community centres and parks.

NHS trusts are also entitled to make requests for funding from developers to meet the expected rise in population and often the money goes towards new GP surgeries or health centres.

After the result, Cllr David Harrison, portfolio holder for planning at Malvern Hills District Council, said: “Although all three councils have tremendous sympathy with the NHS for the funding pressure the service is facing, the judgment highlights the fact no party is entitled to section 106 contributions unless they have been properly justified.

“Central government is responsible for funding the NHS and not the planning system. Had the claim succeeded then it could have jeopardised other key contributions such as the amount of affordable housing.”

Glen Burley, the new chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are aware of the judgement and we are reviewing the detailed findings before deciding our next steps.”