Newton Poppleford set to lose out on new doctor’s surgery as developer bids to build houses on plot instead

Newton Poppleford looks set to lose out on a long-promised new doctor’s surgery – because homes are poised to be built on the land instead.

Approval of proposals for two dwellings off King Alfred Way will end hopes of a health hub which villagers have been waiting five years for.

A government planning inspector will decide on the bid after applicant Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) lodged an appeal over delays in determining its fate locally.

Now, East Devon District Council (EDDC) officers have recommended the authority doesn’t fight the appeal – as there are no ‘sound’ grounds to do so.

“It is not a failing of the planning system to provide the surgery, but a change in the position of Clinton Devon,” development management committee members have been advised.

The committee will debate which course of action to take when it meets on Wednesday, August 6.

Members have been warned that the taxpayer could be lumped with CDE’s costs if they decide to contest the appeal and are successful.

Some 92 per cent of residents who took part in a parish survey in Newton Poppleford and Harpford earlier this year said they wanted the doctor’s surgery.

The practice was part of CDE’s planning application for 40 homes off King Alfred Way which was granted permission in 2014.

However, subsequent legal proceedings revealed the surgery could not be insisted upon in planning terms.

The developer submitted fresh proposals for two homes on the land earmarked for the health hub late last year.

An artist's impression of the proposed homes off King Alfred Way in Newton Poppleford

An artist’s impression of the proposed homes off King Alfred Way in Newton Poppleford.

EDDC’s development management committee has twice deferred making a decision over the proposals.

Members did so in June so to provide an opportunity for the applicant, parish council and Coleridge Medical Centre to find a resolution over the surgery.

CDE promptly lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate over EDDC’s failure to determine the application.

The council can now only advise the Planning Inspectorate whether it would have approved or rejected the plan.

In a report to the development management committee, an EDDC officer advises: “On the basis that officers have consistently recommended that planning permission be granted as there is no planning justification to resist the loss of the doctor’s surgery, the recommendation is to advise the Planning Inspectorate that, had it retained the power to determine the application, it would have approved planning permission.”

The officer adds: “It is acknowledged that the community would benefit from a new surgery at this location, that there are very high levels of support for a surgery, that a surgery has been promised by the applicant, and that this would result in reduced vehicle trips.

“However, from a planning perspective this is somewhat irrelevant as there has never been a planning justification or requirement for a doctor’s surgery on the site related to the provision of the planning permission for the 40 dwellings.

“It is clearly understandable why the local community at Newton Poppleford are angry at the change in position of the applicant; from promising the provision of a doctor’s surgery to now proposing two dwellings. However, this is not a matter that could justify refusal of planning permission.

“It is also unclear that there is the relevant funding from the NHS for the surgery and a possible change in the provision of health care that appears to question whether a new surgery is supported from a health care perspective.”

The Coleridge Medical Centre, long mooted to run the surgery, has told EDDC ‘a considerable amount of time has passed’ since the original planning application. It also says the ‘the landscape for primary care services has changed’, adding: “Funding that was available to develop joint working in smaller satellite locations is no longer available to us at this time.”

Plans for homes off King Alfred Way in Newton Poppleford

Plans for homes off King Alfred Way in Newton Poppleford

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