Published: 06:00, 15 August 2021
Doctors warn a village GP surgery will be forced to close down if proposals for 10 homes on neighbouring land are approved.
Those in charge of the practice at Chilham, outside Canterbury, say it would be "unable to continue operating a safe medical service" amid concerns over a lack of parking.
Developers have long held plans to build homes on the lawn grounds of Harvest House, off Branch Road, and the proposals have been tweaked since an original bid in 2019.
Should the plans be given the go-ahead by Ashford Borough Council, the properties will be constructed on land around the GP practice - which itself falls within the application site.
Five designated parking spaces will be available for the surgery, yet objectors say the number is "grossly inadequate" and fear for the safety of patients.
The surgery's Patient Participation Group has lodged an objection, stating: "Any increase in movements of vehicles behind the surgery, in the vicinity of the allocated parking spaces, means there is an increased possibility of accidents between patients walking from and to their vehicles, and residents in their cars.
"This is a significant concern given that many patients are elderly, frail or disabled."
Ten country homes are earmarked for the village site, with the largest boasting five bedrooms.
Dr Dale Kinnersley, who has been at the surgery for more than 25 years, is one of dozens of critics to hit out the proposal.
"It has to be understood, that Chilham Surgery will not be able to operate safely under these plans and so will necessitate closure of this building and service to the community," he writes.
"The application does not consider the true community need and value of the surgery at all, and the impact its loss would have upon the village and surrounding community.
"We have been consistent in our view for the need for additional parking, particularly on such a busy, narrow road.
"This latest proposal just confirms they have no intention or wish to provide adequate parking, indeed, throughout they have shown total disregard for the community value of the surgery."
The site in question is, however, in the borough council's Local Plan. It states any potential development should be "around 10 dwellings" in size, and provide a minimum of five GP parking spaces.
The proposals put forward by the Lee Evans Partnership do therefore fulfil the council's criteria.
The firm has defended its proposals in a letter submitted to the council detailing its planned parking arrangement for the GP practice.
"The applicant would like to confirm there is no intention to cease use of the building as a surgery," it reads.
"The application documentation makes it clear that the surgery building remains in place under the proposals and is incorporated carefully into the layout.
"Contrary to some assertions in comments submitted, the proposals will deliver additional parking for the surgery, not less.
"At present the surgery has to make do with an unmarked, thereby less efficient, parking area to the front of the building.
"Under the proposals this will be added to with five dedicated marked bays."
Branch Road, which is also home to Chilham Sports Centre, is regularly used as a rat-run by drivers trying to avoid queues at the A28 junction.
The homes scheme has therefore sparked fears over the increased likelihood of accidents and speeding along the country route.
But developers say there is a low accident record on the road, and say the plans will "not adversely affect highway safety or the free flow of traffic".
Dozens of villagers, however, have objected with fears of the surgery's elderly, frail and disabled users being put at risk by the development.