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GPs express housing boom concern despite developers’ £550,000 pledge

Local GPs have warned of an uncertain future for general practice access in their area amid plans for major construction developments.

The warning, from Northumberland LMC, comes despite local authorities managing to secure hundreds of thousands towards healthcare developments from the developers. 

At a recent meeting of the county council’s strategic planning committee, it was announced that the already approved housing development schemes had been brought back to agree deals under section 106 rules on funding contribution from developers to infrastructure such as schools and GP practices.

  • For a development of up to 600 homes on land east of Wansbeck Hospital £414,000 was agreed for healthcare.
  • Developers for a proposed 200 homes on land east of North Seaton had agreed £138,000 for healthcare.
  • However, a third site in the area did not receive any allocation for healthcare with the planning application stating there was capacity within existing practices in the town.
  • And another development brought before the committee for 300 homes in South Newsham included 1.3 million for education in addition to funding for sports facilities and ‘coastal ecology mitigation’ but no healthcare allocation.

The local medical committee said it had grave concerns about the impact of large numbers of planned housing on GP practices in the region and where money had been allocated it was often not enough or based on out-of-date information.

The news comes as a Pulse investigation earlier this year found that many local authorities were failing to give GPs a share of infrastructure funding.

Jane Lothian, medical secretary of Northumberland LMC, said this had been a hot topic for them as planning permission had been granted for many thousands of new homes in the region.

Planning officials were taking their worries seriously, she said, and had come to speak at a recent LMC meeting, but they remained concerned that changes could not be made retrospectively to planning applications that had already gone through and that the section 106 funding was often not enough.

Dr Lothian said: ‘We are an area of the country where masses of planning applications have been approved in the past decade.’

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She said planning applications were often years out of date and did not take into account that circumstances had altered in GP pressures in the interim.

‘As far as money is concerned, section 106 is not the pot of gold we had all been led to believe,’ she added.

‘We are very concerned and we are working with the planners to try to get them to understand the issues – it is all five to ten years out of date.’

A spokesperson for NHS Northumberland CCG said they worked in partnership with Northumberland County Council’s planning department and considered the impact of each housing application on a case by case basis.

‘Since 2017, the CCG has been notified of all housing schemes of over 30 homes.

‘We assess the existing capacity with local GPs and where there is not sufficient provision to serve the development we request a section 106 contribution from the developer.

‘The CCG has developed this process with the council which includes a set formula to calculate a suitable contribution.’

The news comes as a CCG warned general practice in parts of Essex could become ‘unsustainable’ following the development of hundreds flats.

In a letter to Colchester Borough Council, seen by Pulse, NHS North East Essex CCG said £53,000 was needed to mitigate the impact of the construction of 340 student flats in the area.