The future of Westbury Hospital remains uncertain after the town council backed out of a battle with the NHS over its ownership this week.

Residents have claimed the building, built in the 1920s and currently home to two surgeries, belongs to the town as it was paid for by donations from local people.

However, the council has now decided against getting legal advice to challenge the ownership of the building, which is registered to NHS Wiltshire, the Primary Care Trust (PCT), due to the costs involved.

Both the White Horse and Eastleigh surgeries, which currently occupy the hospital, will be moving to the new White Horse Health Centre on the Leigh Park estate, on September 17.

Mayor Sue Ezra said the council hoped the hospital could be used by another care provider, but feared it might be demolished to make room for more housing. She said: “I think the PCT are on pretty firm ground. The hospital is under their name in the Land Registry and those are the deeds.

“We spoke to (Westbury legal practice) Pinniger Finch about getting legal advice from a barrister, but we were looking at more than £1,000 a day. It is too much.

“The PCT has to offer the building up to public sector use before it can put it on the market.

“I hope a nursing home will move in, or something similar.

“It would be a shame if it was demolished for housing. We don’t have enough shops for more housing round there and there is already too much congestion.

“But we should look forward. I am very pleased the new health centre is opening and volunteers are coming forward to help people get there and show them around.

“It is good news for Westbury.”

The new £5 million health centre, in Mane Way, will include nine GP rooms, antenatal and postnatal care, five treatment areas, a minor operations suite, a seminar room, mobile diagnostics centre, an outpatient x-ray facility and a dental surgery.

It will also act as a base for midwives, health visitors and district nurses.

The opening has been delayed by just over a month, because contractors were seeking planning permission for highways alterations.