A ‘contingency’ planning application to convert a GP practice with 4,000 patients in Brixington, Exmouth, into a pair of homes has been turned down.
Proposals for a change of use at Raleigh Surgery, in Pines Road, were rejected by East Devon District Council (EDDC) this week.
Bosses at the health hub said the bid had been made ‘purely for the future’ – should the heath hub’s only partner decide to one day retire.
They reassured the public there was no intention to shut the practice when the plans were submitted in November.
Permission was sought to create two new homes, parking areas, a roof extension to the front elevation and the installation of rooflights.
Refusing the application under delegated powers, an EDDC officer said the plan was contrary to Strategy 32 of its Local Plan, which seeks to resist the loss of employment land and community sites.
The officer also ruled that the second of the proposed dwellings had a ‘poor standard of private amenity space’ that would ‘have a detrimental impact on the living conditions of future occupiers’.
Raleigh Surgery is owned and run by a sole GP – Dr Karen Knight, according to the blueprints.
Proposals stated there is ‘no guarantee’ another partner can be found to keep the practice running when she decides to retire.
However, Raleigh Surgery said in a statement after the application was revealed: “We have submitted a planning permission application in order to provide us with a contingency plan in the future.
“We cannot predict how services will need to be provided into the future, and wish to be prepared should there be a need for us to move to a larger premises or if there is ill health among the management team at the surgery.
“There is absolutely no need to register elsewhere, and we are more than happy to discuss the plans, and our reasons for submitting this application if any of our patients continue to be concerned.”
The planning application described the surgery as ‘vulnerable’ and said: “Sadly, due to the significant real terms reductions in the funding we receive from NHS England, we have struggled to attract additional partners to join the practice.
It added: “Exmouth already has four other GP surgeries, and there is also provision in nearby towns and villages in Woodbury and Budleigh Salterton.
“These practices could easily absorb the 4,000 patients registered with Raleigh, and this would fit with the direction of NHS England in the long-term.
“The surgery is terrifically located in the heart of Brixington, and has easy access to shops, parks, a school and the aforementioned pharmacy, so the building would be ideal for conversion into residential units to meet extremely high demand for housing in Exmouth.”
The Essential Pharmacy Ltd, which has operated Pines Pharmacy in Brixington for more than a decade, objected to the plans.
Town councillors also opposed the bid – as it went against the Exmouth Neighbourhood Plan.
EDDC received six objections to the scheme.
Concerns included the fact the surgery is the only doctors’ in the Brixington area, serves a large community and 4,000-plus patients would have to register elsewhere.
Worries over the viability of the nearby pharmacy and the need for healthcare for planned housing growth in the area were voiced.
Objectors also said the proposal would be ‘detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the local population’.