Published: 18:55, 17 October 2019
| Updated: 19:32, 17 October 2019
Having a doctors' surgery on the doorstep and ready to go as soon as a tenant was found would have been a major attraction for many residents who moved into a new housing estate at Leybourne Chase near West Malling.
But the firm behind the development is having a change of plan.
Taylor Wimpey confirmed that a doctor's surgery may no longer be opened and that shops or restaurants could take its place.
A spokesman said: "We are keen to enhance the village centre by finding a suitable occupant for this unit, and are therefore opening discussions with the local planning authority, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, to explore the possibility of changing the use of the building.
"Once we have come to an agreement with the planning authority, we will be in contact with local residents.”
The provision of a surgery was part of the original grant of planning permission, and the firm will need persuade the council that the switch is justified.
For those keen to see a doctors' surgery built on the development, the news comes as a big blow. West Malling and Leybourne ward councillor Brian Luker (Con) said: "The pressure on our local surgeries is intense."
"We're going to get more and more development as time goes on and to lose what's potentially a very, very good asset for something else would be really disappointing."
Taylor Wimpey had reached out to both private operators and the NHS to fill the vacant building since June 2015, without success.
However, the area's Clinical Commissioning Group said there were never any plans to open up on the estate with a spokesperson saying: “The building at Leybourne Chase was not identified by the NHS as required to deliver primary medical services.”
West Malling's High Street practice had been under the spotlight in recent years due to an uncertain future and a strain on services.
The Leybourne Chase site has been proposed as a possible facility to take some of the strain and Cllr Luker said it needed to be kept on the table.
He said: "The problem with West Malling is that it's an older building and getting beyond its sell by date.
"We need something new and Leybourne would be an ideal opportunity to locate."
More by this authorAlan Smith