MORE homes will need to be built in the Green Belt to help medical bosses pay for a replacement Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore.
The complex in Brockley Hill has planning permission for an £81m revamp but the trust that runs it now wants to increase from 60 per cent the proportion of brownfield land that is sold off for housing rather than being used for new medical buildings in order to increase the value of the land and use to proceeds to reduce future the borrowing costs.
Rob Hurd, chief executive of Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, said: "There's a fixed amount of footprint that we're not planning to exceed, and we want to switch some of the clinical footprint, which we don't necessarily need, to residential, although we haven't pinpointed the total number of houses or metres squared.
"We're protecting the northern green zone of the site. The relaxing atmosphere and ecology for our patients is core to what we want to maintain.
"We'd only be building on previously developed land and consolidating our buildings in the centre zone.
"We've got to get a balance as we don't want to sell off the family silver to fund our expansion in the future."
The new hospital - constructed thanks to a Private Finance Initiative deal underwritten by the Department of Health - would replicate the current 217 beds and operational capacity but would replace a sprawling and aging series of unsuitable buildings with a more compact and efficient block, while a private wing may also be built to boost income.
"We have to go back through the planning application process through the next 12 months," said Mr Hurd.
"We're going to have a preferred option public consultation in April and then submit the plans in June to August this year and from August to December is when it goes to Harrow Council for determination."
If approved, work would start in 2013 and the hospital would open in late 2015 or early 2016 - by which time the proposed new larger housing estate would be occupied.
The earmarked plot for the new hospital is occupied by redundant or derelict buildings meaning the present hospital can operate unaffected while its successor is under construction. Current facilities will only be demolished once everything has been transferred over.
Mr Hurd said: "I would hope and expect there's lots of local support and that people can see the way we currently use the site is not good for anybody, neither patients nor residents, and there's all sorts we can do to make better use of the site, and that a greater degree of residential to make sure this national centre of excellence remains in Stanmore will be appreciated."