Healh plans set to return

MD of Rushcliffe Developments, Harry Ashworth, preparing new plans for health centre on Vicarage Road, Poulton.
MD of Rushcliffe Developments, Harry Ashworth, preparing new plans for health centre on Vicarage Road, Poulton.
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For three years plans for a controversial health centre on the site of an historic church hall and a community park have divided a town.

While some welcome a state-of-the-art facility on their doorstep others fear the three storey building will be detrimental to the character of Poulton.

Earlier this year campaigners breathed a sigh of relief as a Government planning inspector ruled the development on Vicarage Road not suitable for the town.

But this week the man behind plans for the Primary Care Centre has revealed he will re-submit a revised scheme this year.

Harry Ashworth, of Rushcliffe Development Ltd, told The Gazette his commitment to the project had not waned and he was very keen to move forward.

He said: “We are talking to doctors at the three GP surgeries in Poulton and they still need to relocate.

“There are certain drawbacks in the Vicarage Road site because of its history but it is still a major possibility.

“Our architects are working on a scheme which will incorporate changes highlighted at appeal and in the next few months we will have more of an idea how much room we will need.

“We imagine the building will be on a reduced scale from the comments of the inspector.

“But it will still offer the same service and facilities.”

Last year the Primary Care Trust, who were initially behind the scheme, announced they were no longer in a position to move forward with the plans due to financial constrictions.

Residents expressed concerns that if given the go ahead without the backing of a health provider, the building could be used for something else.

But Mr Ashworth has assured locals the health centre will only be built if Rushcliffe has firm commitment from a health provider to take over the premises.

He said: “There is still a requirement for a health centre in Poulton and if we receive planning consent it will last for three years, a lot can change in that time.

“It may be we extend the planning consent because there will still be a need for improved health services in Poulton in 10 or 15 years time.

“Health centres are a specific planning clause and if we wanted to change the use we would have to go to the local authority and there just isn’t a demand for that level of accommodation.

“It is a purpose-built building and wouldn’t go ahead if we didn’t have a firm commitment from whichever health body is in charge at that time.”

Proposals for the health centre which would replace GP practices at Lockwood Avenue, Queensway and Princess Avenue were originally submitted in 2009. Plans also included a new church hall, the relocation of the St Chad’s Tennis Club and the loss of a small section of Vicarage Park.

The proposals caused controversy as residents feared they would lose community facilities and it would cause increased traffic problems in an already congested town centre.

Another site, on Station Road, Poulton was preferred by campaigners, but Mr Ashworth said the PCT would not allow the facility to be built on that spot.

He said: “The land at Station Road is contaminated and we were told by the PCT it was unacceptable for the health centre.

“They also said it was too far out of the town centre so there was no point us buying the land because it did not fit in with their requirement.

“The attraction of Vicarage Road is its in a town centre location and would be easily accessible and would bring a lot of footfall to the area.”

Despite Rushcliffe’s proposals being turned down at September’s appeal, Wyre Council’s application for costs were refused.

The council was left with officer costs of more than £50,000.

Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council said he was surprised another application would be submitted.

He said: “The PCT have made it clear they wouldn’t be supporting such a development in Poulton and have just invested money to refurbish Poulton Clinic on Princes Avenue.

“Obviously if the money has been put in to improve the clinic, it makes the health centre less viable.

“If and when Rushcliffe submit an application the council will look at it with an open mind and a decision will be made.”