The Singaporean investors who now own a historic Bath hospital are drawing up plans to turn it into a luxury hotel.
NHS staff are set to complete their relocation from the Grade II-listed Royal National Hospital For Rheumatic Diseases – previously called the Royal Mineral Water Hospital and better known as the Min – to the Royal United Hospital by the end of the year.
The 18th century Upper Borough Walls property was bought by Winchester-based Versant Homes and Development in 2017, which said it was exploring a range of options.
However, Land Registry documents reveal that it sold the building to Fragrance UK – Bath Limited in January 2018 for £21.5million.
The firm claims to have a “current market capitalization” in excess of $1billion.
According to Companies House, the board is made up of three Singapore-based directors, Dr Koh Wee Meng, Looi Wan Lim and Periakaruppan Aravindan, and “wealth services” firm Intertrust (UK) Limited is the secretary.
Fragrance Group’s website shows it has portfolios in Singapore and Australia and owns a number of historic and listed hotels across the UK, including Blackpool’s Imperial Hotel, the Crown Hotel in Harrogate and the Townhouse Hotel in Manchester.
It has submitted plans to convert Liverpool’s Municipal Buildings and other premises in Torquay and Paignton into hotels.
The Fragrance Group website says of The Min: “Originally built in the 18th century to serve those who came in search of the healing properties of Bath’s mineral waters, this property comprises of two buildings connected by a two-storey bridge link and basement tunnel.
“Plans are being drawn up to develop the property into a luxury hotel.”
It says the company’s vision is: “Delivering developments that bring together the qualities of practicality, simplicity and high quality. Maximising the usability of compact urban spaces.”
A planning application has not yet been submitted to Bath and North East Somerset Council.
Fragrance Group is not the first company from the East Asia to take an interest in Bath.
Malaysia-based YTL owns the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel and the Thermae Development Co Ltd, which holds the licence to operate the Thermae Bath Spa complex.
The Royal Mineral Hospital was founded in 1738.
The RUH acquired the site in 2015 and put it up for sale in 2017.
It is not clear exactly how much the trust got for the site but its annual report for 2017/18 says: “The sale of the Mineral Hospital is included in the profit on disposal of property which resulted in a net profit of £15.265m, reduced by sundry other asset disposals during the year.”
RUH deputy chief operating officer Claire O’Farrell told councillors that staff will have vacated the Min by the end of December.
The following services will have relocated from to the RUH’s Combe Park by the end of the year:
- Rheumatology services
- Clinical measurement
- Bath Centre for Fatigue Services
- Rheumatology therapies services
- Paediatric and adolescent rheumatology services
- Bath Centre for Pain Services
- Complex regional pain syndrome service and complex cancer late effects rehabilitation service
A report to the council says: “There will be no change in the level or range of service provision for patients attending the RUH, patients will have access to the same services and support, provided by the same team.
“There is no impact on patient choice, as relocating services does not reduce the number of appointments or clinics available.
“The Mineral Water Hospital site will remain open and services will continue to be provided as usual in the lead up to relocation and we will be working to minimise any disruption during this time.
“A communications plan is in place to ensure patients and stakeholders are aware of final moving dates from the Mineral Water Hospital site, and to provide reassurance around continuity of high quality services in the future.”
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter