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Tenterden: NHS funding for Ivy Court surgery expansion in doubt

The future of Ivy Court surgery's new multimillion-pound building lies in the hands of a planning committee.

Ashford Borough Council's (ABC) planning department has recommended refusal of the expansion in Tenterden, labelling the three-storey complex "visually prominent and intrusive" and an "overdevelopment".

It has led Ashford and Tenterden councillor Callum Knowles to call the application in to be heard by the full committee on Wednesday.

Ivy Court Surgery, Tenterden
Ivy Court Surgery, Tenterden

The hammer blow has been delivered at a critical stage, as NHS funding for 66% of development costs is dependent on the building being signed off by November 28.

Cllr Knowles said: "The officer is concerned about the building being three-storey, but there are plenty of examples of three-storey buildings in Tenterden like M&Co and Waitrose."

He said that it was not the time for debating how many floors the surgery had, or whether it should be expanding on two floors.

"Now is the time to grasp the mettle. We need to build a doctors' surgery that is fit for purpose and that is suitable for the future needs of Tenterden.

A computer generated image showing the proposal
A computer generated image showing the proposal

"We have got a state of the art facility here; it's a smart building that has the space that is needed in the future."

He added: "This surgery is critical not just to Tenterden but to all of the villages around us. It will be the doctors' surgery for about 15% of the people of Ashford."

Expansion of Ivy Court is required to cater for it existing 14,254 patients, a figure that is forecast to increase by 2,500 within the next four years as new homes are built in the town.

In its planning application, surgery bosses describe the Recreation Ground Road building as being "woefully undersized", offering just "50% of the expected space standards for the current patient list size".

Weald Central ward member Cllr Alan Pickering described Ivy Court's plans as a "design enhancement" in an area of Tenterden where there are other industrial/commercial premises and examples of three-storey buildings.

He is concerned for patients living in the villages surrounding Tenterden, which the surgery serves and said: "If the surgery is not signed off by November 28 the NHS will withdraw its funding offer. We will have to go to the back of the queue."

How the extension could look
How the extension could look

An ABC spokesman said that when its officers were made aware of the NHS funding deadline it held pre-application discussions with the applicant to avoid any delays, but its advice went unheeded.

The spokesman said as a consequence ABC could not support the application: “Whilst council officers are fully supportive of the need to provide enhanced medical facilities for Tenterden and the surrounding area, the applicant was advised during these pre-application discussions that the proposed height, bulk and massing of the building was of substantial concern.

"Notwithstanding the concerns that officers raised, a scheme has been progressed and a formal application submitted for a building that is three storey in height and of a scale and mass that is not substantially different to the proposals presented in pre-application discussions."

Tenterden Town Council is supporting the surgery's application and Cllr Roy Isworth will attend the meeting.

Ivy Court practice manager Lyndsey Webber said she was hopeful of a "positive outcome" and thanked patients for their support. She added: "Our proposals highlight our desire to be able to enhance the medical provision and healthcare facilities in and around the Tenterden area, which will require a multi million pound investment."

To view the planning application go to ABC's planning portal and search for reference 18/01196/AS.The application will be heard by the planning committee on Wednesday (14) at 7pm at the Civic Centre, Tannery lane, Ashford TN23 1PL.

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