Hope House Surgery is having to revisit its plans for a new Doctor’s Surgery, Children’s Centre, Library and Community Kitchen after B&NES’ Development Control Committee decided to defer a decision on the application, so that further design negotiations can take place.
The next meeting is on 20th September, and Hope House stress that a decision will have to be made shortly to avoid the loss of NHS funding, which the project cannot go ahead without.
Councillors on the committee said at the Guildhall last week that they would not be ‘bullied’ into a decision with the threat of funding being lost – despite Dr Ian Orpen, Chair of B&NES’ Clinical Commissioning Group, warning that the loss of funding was no idle threat. Addressing the meeting which took place last Wednesday in Bath, he said: “This is a one-off opportunity to provide a modern, state-of-the-art facility, bringing together key community services, such as the library and Children’s Services.
“If we are not careful, the money will simply go back to NHS England and allocated elsewhere to projects that are ready to go. This opportunity may not come around again.”
The meeting also heard from other speakers, for and against the planning application, including Chair of Radstock Town Council, Keith Tyrrell, who said: “The Town Council submitted its comments and voted to refuse this application, specifically on the loss of green infrastructure and the size, mass and scale of the proposed development. The Town Council set up a working group and has been committed to liaising with Hope House Surgery over these plans.
“The parking proposed is inadequate, and should this plan be approved today, we would like to see detailed proposals of how the parking shortfall would be met.
“I would state as strongly as possible that members are fully supportive in principle of the plans, and a doctor’s surgery is imperative to the future of our town.
“However, on balance, the loss of a medical centre is inconceivable, and, as Chair, I am 100% in support of this application.”
B&NES Councillors on the panel also heard from a representative from Radstock Museum, who expressed his concern about the parking in the area; Colin Currie, on behalf of Radstock Action Group, who spoke against the design of the building in a Conservation Area, and Alderman Terry Reakes, who has been strongly opposed from the beginning to the loss of green space, and accused the local authority of ignoring its own planning policy.
The Council has also been heavily criticised for not negotiating with Linden Homes as part of the regeneration plans for the town – to provide a new doctor’s surgery on Area One. Rather, the authority waived Section 106 payments after the developer argued the site would no longer be viable if it was made to pay.
Whilst the Committee asked questions of the planning officer and debated issues such as parking, Cllr Les Kew put forward a motion, which was seconded by Cllr Bryan Organ. He said: “This is a tremendous scheme, with great advantage to the people of Radstock, and whilst there are some concerns, this is to be expected.
“The new surgery is very necessary, and its position perfect for people living in Radstock. However, I do agree wholeheartedly about concerns over design. I move that the decision should be deferred by a month to see if officers and architects can improve the design in the meantime.”
Councillors mainly had an issue with the wood cladding which is proposed in the plans, despite this being reduced and more white lias stone included, following pre-planning advice.
Dr Alison Humphrey warned the panel prior to the debate that these amendments had been made, and that the budget for the project would not allow for more white lias to be incorporated in the plans. Without the timber cladding, it could mean the whole building will need to be redesigned.
The panel discussed the look of the proposed surgery at length, with some arguing that it was a brand new building making a statement in the town, and others completely against it, arguing it should be more like the new houses owned by Curo, on the old bakery site at Radstock.
Andrew Ryall, Team Manger for Development Control, said that the project had limited finances due to the NHS funding, and that the current plan is the minimum size that the building can be, with which to accommodate the services needed. He said: “We have gone as far as we can with the size, design and materials and in my opinion, it is appropriate.”
Following the debate, Cllr Kew’s motion was passed, with six in favour and four against.
A spokesperson for Hope House Surgery told The Journal this week: “While the partners and staff at Hope House Surgery were hoping for a decision at last week’s planning committee meeting, we are encouraged that the committee members recognised how important this scheme is for the future of health and wellbeing services in Radstock and the surrounding area.
“We have already started working hard with our design team to look at what alterations may be possible within the confines of the funding available to deliver the project.
“The Hope House Surgery team remain committed to delivering a solution that safeguards services within the town for the present community, as well as future generations.”