SOUTHEND Hospital looks set to sell off 15 acres of land at Fossetts Farm to help pay for multi-million pound healthcare improvements.

In 2005, the hospital bought the land – neighbouring the proposed Southend United stadium – to develop a health centre that would have taken the strain off its outpatients’ department.

A five-year plan for the hospital, leaked to the Echo, says selling the land off Fossetts Way is one of its key priorities, with cash raised ploughed back into the hospital budget for other projects.

The trust board is trying to remove a restrictive covenant on the land which means it can only be developed as a health centre and nothing else.

This has led to fears it will be sold to the highest bidder and could mean the construction of more out of town developments.

According to the plan, the “asset” would be looked at for commercial development in 2017 with funds raised used to pay for other proposals, including a £2million vascular centre, stroke centre and high-tech cancer equipment.

The hospital insists no decision has been made over the future of the land, but Jacqueline Totterdell, hospital chief executive, confirmed the asset in question was the land at Fossetts Farm. A trust spokeswoman said: “This work will look at all of the assets the trust owns and the merit of obtaining income from their sale or development.

“This is an exploratory venture with a view to providing a funding option in the latter years of the plan.”

The land was bought in December 2005 for £2.4million to develop a treatment centre for outpatients and day case surgery, which would have been run by a private company.

The spokeswoman added: “The project failed as the private sector provider service proved to be too expensive and the trust, with the then primary care trust, decided the project would not be financially viable.

“The trust has yet to review its options on the future of Fossetts Farm and will not make any firm decisions for a further two years.”

Director of estates and facilities, Jan China, said: “The trust has no firm plans as yet and will not commence this work until a restricted covenant is removed at the end of 2015.

“As we have not completed any work, we do not know if we will develop a new build or sell the land, therefore the ‘real’ value is unknown.”

Jon Fuller, coordinator for South East Essex Friends of the Earth, fears it could end up being a new DIY superstore or leisure facility that would increase traffic.

He said: “We oppose the construction of major out-of-town shops, swimming pools and other facilities that generate new car use and increase social exclusion by making it impossible for those without cars to gain access.

“The history of such development in Southend and Rochford has been very poor and we need to do better in the future.”