Campaigners have condemned an NHS trust after it sold off a fifth of land surrounding the grounds of Epsom Hospital at a “knockdown price”.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust says the land, which comprises “derelict” buildings, “was not needed [and] will not be needed in the future”.

But Keep Our St Helier Hospital (KOSHH) slammed the decision as a “betrayal of the public interest” following the announcement.

Daniel Elkeles, Epsom and St Helier’s chief executive, said: “The buildings of Epsom Hospital need major investment now to keep them safe for our sick and vulnerable patients.

“In the absence of any other source of funding, we have sold surplus land to generate the cash to do this. This plan and approach has been approved by our regulators and the Department of Health and Social Care.”

No public sector organisation “put in a credible offer” after the trust was urged by some to not sell off the land, according to Mr Elkeles.

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He added: “We have secured a sale price that is higher than we thought possible and, although this is not the highest offer we received, it is the most credible and most beneficial for local people.

“We believe this is good news – the £15 million we have unlocked will see the greatest investment into Epsom Hospital since the completion of SWLEOC [South West London Elective Orthopaedic Centre] in 2004.”

Plans to sell part of the Epsom site were approved by Epsom and St Helier’s trust board last April before the news was confirmed this month.

The development being led by asset manager Legal & General will see the construction of a later living community for over-65s, subject to planning permission.

But it was revealed the NHS trust was initially offered £40 million by another developer before the land was sold for £18.5 million.

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KOSHH campaigner Dave Ash said: “[We] feel that the sale of publicly owned NHS land and buildings is, at best a short-sighted measure to meet financial concerns and will leave the NHS with too little room for expansion to meet current and future needs.

“The BMA [British Medical Association] have similar fears and, at worst, it is part of the plan to run down the NHS as a prelude to its final privatisation.

“Public feeling about the land sale expressed at the trust’s public meeting back in August 2018, and elsewhere, was clear and emphatic.

“The public demanded that the land either not be sold at all or, if the sale go ahead, the land should be used only for much-needed social care, affordable housing or staff accommodation.

“None of the trust’s promises have been fulfilled. Public demands have not been met. Instead, the land has been sold into the private sector, apparently for development into expensive, residential accommodation.

“However it is dressed up by prescribing the age of residents.”

Meanwhile, Epsom and Ewell Council expressed disappointment at the announcement after previously expressing opposition to the sale of the “valuable” hospital land.