East Devon Covid vaccination centre is days away from demolition after the district council announced it must go by the end of the year – despite local calls for it to remain.
A temporary building at Greendale Business Park used as a vaccination centre during the Covid pandemic must be demolished by New Year’s Day after an application to keep it was refused, writes local democracy reporter Will Goddard.
The 72-metre-long structure was originally built under emergency regulations in 2021, and East Devon District Council (EDDC) later agreed it could stay in use by the NHS until the end of 2022, but that it had to be removed by December 31, 2023.
Paul James of FWS Carter & Sons, which owns and operates Greendale Business Park, on the Sidmouth Road, had applied to keep the building permanently for a range of purposes including commercial, residential and medical uses, but also said it could just be used by the NHS.
Planning officers recommended that Councillors refuse the application, as the building, near Woodbury Salterton, goes against its ‘local plan’, a guide for new development in the district, which does not permit the outward expansion of the business park. They also had other concerns such as its visual impact on the landscape.
The NHS said it needed a “surge vaccination centre,” in the event of another pandemic, but officers felt they had not seen enough information to be sure there was no other suitable site.
Some Councillors agreed with the officers, but others thought it should be allowed to stay.
Cllr Geoff Jung (Lib Dem, Woodbury and Lympstone) said: “A large regional centre made strategic sense but obviously it is not required now.
“Existing local surgeries and pharmacies are now more than willing and able to provide the flu and covid jabs and they welcome the beneficial income that this provides.
“Is this site suitable for commercial use? It’s not supported by our agreed local plan, it’s not agreed by our adopted villages plan… because this large business park is considered to be an unsustainable location and increasing it would be detrimental to the local landscape.”
Cllr Ben Ingham (Conservative, Woodbury and Lympstone) said: “The NHS are the body best placed to advise on medical need and they say they need it.
“The covid inquiry stresses the importance of preparing for future pandemics and learning from the mistakes of 2020 when we could not respond to covid-19 at short notice.
“Our communities need it to safeguard our public health. It really is that simple.”
Cllr Mike Howe (Independent, Clyst Valley) said: “There is no policy support for this at all.
“If you want to barge a horse and cart through our local plan as it stands today, carry on ahead. We haven’t got the proof from the NHS.”
Cllr Ian Barlow (Independent, Sidmouth Town) said: “I speak to the people I represent, and whenever you say to them, they want to remove the vaccination centre… they can’t believe it.
“The whole point of planning is to plan for the future. What difference does it make what it’s for?
“If the NHS has quite rightly said they’d like to save some money. If they can do a deal, surely that’s the sort of thing we want to encourage. They’ve done a deal that this building is for the NHS, on short notice it can be cleared if it is required.
“We didn’t know about the first pandemic. We will not know about the second pandemic.”
Woodbury Parish Council also supported the application to keep the building. But, after a vote, permission was refused.