Published: 08:46, 16 November 2018
| Updated: 10:32, 16 November 2018
Councillors have backed plans to increase the size of a GP surgery in Tenterden by more than 50% to help meet demand.
Ivy Court Surgery will become a three-storey “contemporary” facility as part of the changes, allowing it to provide extra services and increase the number of patients on its books.
Ashford Borough Council officers had recommended the application be rejected due to the impact it would have on the conservation area it sits in, concluding it would obscure the nearby Grade-I listed St Mildred’s Church.
But planning committee members unanimously supported the proposal on Wednesday night.
Cllr Gerry Clarkson (Con) said: “While I applaud our officers and their diligence in safeguarding our countryside and especially conservation areas, I think policies are there for our guidance and not blind obedience.
“This is a case where it’s overwhelmingly such that we should be supporting the population of Tenterden and the surrounding area in approving this.”
Ivy Court – rated as ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission earlier this year – is currently under size by 50% according to NHS guidelines. The scheme will increase the floorspace by 59%.
NHS officials have promised to contribute 64.4% of the extension building costs, but gave a deadline of November 28 for planning permission to be obtained.
Dr Aslan Mirza, a GP at the surgery, told committee members: “Our patients need this expansion to continue to receive first-class healthcare.
“The national drive in the NHS five-year forward view focuses on care being delivered closer to home in large health centres with an increasing number of services being shifted from hospital through to primary care.
'This is the most important medical planning application in this area for decades...' - Cllr Callum Knowles
“To deliver on this plan requires expansions, and the provision of these services would not only serve Tenterden but also surrounding areas such as Ham Street, Woodchurch and Charing.
“Without this extension, these patients will not receive these services closer to home – many of our patients are frail and are unable to travel to Ashford, so delivering care closer to home is vital to them.”
All committee members agreed the benefits outweighed the “less than significant harm” on the conservation area, adding the extension would see extra services provided at the surgery and increased staff retention.
Cllr Callum Knowles (Con) concluded: “This is the most important medical planning application in this area for decades.
"It will create a cutting-edge facility, delivering the most up-to-date health and wellbeing services.”
The practice will remain open while the works are carried out.
More by this authorDean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter