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Church of England bids to evict 8,000-patient GP practice to build luxury home

The Church of England’s property arm has applied to evict a GP practice in order to convert its premises into a luxury home.

The Westminster-based practice said moving premises could make the practice ‘unaffordable’ and pose a ‘significant threat’ to its survival.

Connaught Square Practice’s landlord, the Church Commissioners, submitted a planning application last month to convert the practice’s Grade II-listed premises into a seven-bedroom, four-bathroom house with a courtyard and a terrace.

The Church Commissioners have proposed that the practice moves to new premises around half a mile away, however the proposed new premises would need to be converted into a GP surgery and ‘exist as architect’s drawings only’, according to the practice.

In a statement posted on its website, the practice said: ‘The terms of the new lease for the premises in Sussex Gardens are different from our current lease in Connaught Square and might make the new Sussex Gardens premises unaffordable for the NHS.

‘Connaught Square Practice’s first priority is to continue to offer a responsive, accessible and high-quality NHS general medical practice. We believe the current application by the Church for change of use of our premises could pose a significant threat to that.’

The practice has put out an appeal asking its 8,000 patients to oppose the planning application.

Harry Warren, patient communications lead at Connaught Square Practice, told Pulse that the practice might be at risk of closure if its new rent is too expensive for NHS England to reimburse.

He said: ‘The rental cost for the new premises is unlikely to be the same as what we’re currently paying for Connaught Square and as that is not yet agreed, it might be unfeasible.

‘If the rent was too high then we wouldn’t be able to afford to run the business and our 8,000 patients would have to find a new GP surgery. That would put stress on the local resources that are already stretched as it is.’

He added that ‘a fair few’ practices have already closed in central London over the last five years because it has not been ‘financially viable’ for them to remain open.

A spokesperson for the Church Commissioners said: ‘A planning application has been submitted for a change of use of a current NHS doctors’ surgery to its original residential use with a linked application to create a modernised accessible surgery building close by.

‘The intention is to relocate the existing surgery to the new premises in the medium term. We have been discussing this proposal with the current doctor since spring 2017 and we fully appreciate the importance of having a doctors’ surgery within the estate.’

It comes as, earlier this week, Pulse reported on a number of GP practices at risk of bankruptcy because NHS Property Services were asking them to pay rent where lease agreements are yet to be agreed.