One stop shop health centre go-ahead

DOCTORS are celebrating news that their plans for a "one-stop shop" health centre have been given outline consent in a Suffolk town after "a long and arduous campaign".

By Sarah Chambers

DOCTORS are celebrating news that their plans for a "one-stop shop" health centre have been given outline consent in a Suffolk town after "a long and arduous campaign".

GPs at the Lambsale Meadow surgery have been working for some time on proposals to move to a new site because they are outgrowing the present building.

Suffolk Coastal District Councillors gave the provisional go-ahead to the plans at a development control sub-committee meeting in January, provided flood risk fears were overcome.

Yesterday, the surgery revealed outline permission for the plans had now been granted.

The GPs are planning to incorporate various facilities at the new centre so patients can access different treatments and services at the same place.

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The practice has been consulting with patients and staff about what they would like to see at the centre, which is proposed for a site next to the sports ground at South Entrance .

Possibilities include a pharmacy, ambulance station, an out of hours service centre for Suffolk Doctors on Call, a playgroup and crèche, an optician's, social services, a dentist's, a physio, chiropodist, and private complementary services.

The idea of having a gymnasium and a charity coffee shop are also being looked at.

"We are all delighted that the outline planning permission has been granted," said one of partners, Dr John Havard. "It makes so much more sense having everything in one place."

The Environment Agency objected to the plans because of flood risk fears. It has now withdrawn its objection in principle, subject to conditions on surface drainage and flooding.

"This has been a long and arduous campaign but it is wonderful that the needs of the community have come out on top in the end," said Dr Havard.

"Now we all need to look forward to a detailed application and decide on improvements to the outline plan. To this end we have been surveying opinion amongst our patients and assimilating ideas. Whilst this analysis is not complete, there certainly appears to be demand for a gym.

"This idea does integrate well with our own thoughts about health and exercise and seems to fit well into Suffolk Coastal's policies relating to leisure.

"We also need to enlarge the car park to make sure that community buses can draw in and out safely and drop the elderly and infirm outside the door rather than outside the site.

"Discussions with the highways authority have revealed that more space at the front would be needed and we feel that this is a high priority. Once we have analysed all the surveys we will discuss a new proposal with the council planners."

They were currently involved in talks the sports club next door about the possibility of moving the building further back to allow this, he said.

The partners at the surgery are Drs John Havard, Paul Murphy, Julie Evans, Mike Hamblyn and Hilary Dunn.

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