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New three-storey GP centre given go-ahead after long negotiations

A new three-storey GP centre will replace two surgeries in the Warwick area, after long negotiations and despite a number of objections from members of the public.

Priory Medical Centre and its branch surgery, Cape Road Surgery, are set to close next year and relocate to the new nearby site after Warwick District Council’s planning committee approved the proposals at a meeting last Tuesday.

The practice’s other branch surgery, Brese Avenue Surgery, which is located one mile away, will be unaffected.

The new centre will be built on the site of a former 1950s purpose-built police station and will include 20 consulting rooms, five treatment rooms, an operating theatre for minor surgeries, a pharmacy, and 41 car parking spaces for staff and patients.

Permission for demolition of the former police station, which has been out of use since 2012, was grantedin July 2015.

The practice’s application, submitted to the council in November 2018, attracted 20 objections from members of the public, who claimed the new site would obscure views of Priory Park and ‘the design is out of keeping with nearby buildings and would have a detrimental impact on the conservation area and setting of nearby listed buildings’.

However, there was support from 66 members of the public who cited cost savings for ‘having two practices under one roof’.

Priory Medical Centre GP partner Dr Tajinder Bhandal told Pulse the decision to go ahead with the new centre was long-awaited.

He said that while he appreciated concerns about the size of the building, if the health centre had not been approved, it was likely the site would in any case have been snapped up by a developer.

Dr Bhandal said: ‘We got CCG funding approval about 18 months ago and then it was just a case of getting the architect plans all approved and consulting with our future landlord. We’re going to be renting, which has been secured for the next 25 years.’

‘With regards to objections, the street around the corner is deemed to be the best Georgian street in the whole of the West Midlands. It was council property which was renovated and made into houses, all £1 million plus, and it’s all of them who are objecting. 

He added: ‘At the talk at the council, I tried to emphasise the NHS does not approve buildings easily and it has been approved by NHS England and the district valuer.

‘I appreciate some people’s concerns about the size, but it’s an expensive plot of land. If we don’t get it, a planning application for housing will come along, so something is going to be huge. I tried to emphasise the health benefits, which pretty much all of our patients can see.’

Warwick District Council case officer Helena Obremski said: ‘We made a site visit on Saturday and planning committee members have been able to look at the site and all the different vantage points. We’ve considered all the benefits of this scheme outweigh the very small harm on the conservation area.’

Last month, a BMA survey revealed half of GP practice buildings are not fit for purpose, in light of growing demand from increasing population sizes.

Meanwhile, in Wales, two GP health centres have recently been given £1.8m in funding to refurbish facilities.