East Devon Covid vaccination centre remains standing three months after it should have been demolished as the landowner appeals to keep it for NHS use

An East Devon Covid vaccination centre ordered by the authority for demolition by the end of 2023 remains standing because the landowner wants its kept for NHS use.

The fate of a temporary building at Greendale Business Park,  that was used as a vaccination centre during the Covid pandemic still hangs in the balance, writes local democracy reporter Will Goddard. 

The 72-metre-long structure was built under emergency regulations in 2021. 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 31 December 2023.

Paul James of FWS Carter & Sons Ltd, which owns and operates Greendale Business Park, on the Sidmouth Road, had applied to keep the building permanently beyond this date for a range of purposes including commercial, residential and medical use.

The council’s planning committee refused this application in December 2023.

Mr James applied again to keep the structure, but this time just for NHS use as a ‘surge’ centre.

East Devon

Greendale Vaccination Centre.
Image: EDDC.

Planning officers recommended Councillors refuse the fresh application on grounds the building goes against EDDC’s ‘local plan’, a guide for new development in the district; not given enough justification was given as to why the NHS needs it in this location; and other concerns such as its visual impact on the landscape.

At a recent committee, Councillors couldn’t agree whether to grant or refuse planning permission and instead voted to visit the site before making a decision.

Cllr Ian Barlow (Independent, Sidmouth Town) said: “We’re all getting a little bit blasé nowadays with covid.

“Covid was the last pandemic. We don’t know what’s coming. You never know what’s coming.

“The reason that Greendale was so successful is, if you remember back then, there was a lot of pressure on the National Health Service. It didn’t have lots of people to set up [but]lots of little ones to deal with lots of little groups of people.

“We needed something that was going to basically….save us. And this building was built three years ago now – in 28 days from memory. It was so impressive.

“I did argue last time that as far as I was concerned it is stupid for a building to be sat there and I don’t see the difference if a building is there and it can be used in short order by the National Health Service, what is wrong with using it for other much-needed business reasons?”

Cllr Eleanor Rylance (Lib Dem, Broadclyst) said: “Cllr Barlow mentioned it took a very short time to erect this building.

“That’s because it’s a modular building erected on a base that was very luckily already under the ground there. It’s very, very easy to take it down, probably to recycle as well I should think. You can probably reuse the building somewhere else.

“We do have other buildings that can be used. There was a specific reason why our showground, for example, was not used last time, but that would also be perfect.

“It is just a warehouse at the end of the day. And there are many warehouses, dotted around East Devon, dotted around Exeter. I think there is a danger of over-focusing on this particular building.

“We are still, after a very short number of months, running the risk of giving the go-ahead something that’s in contravention of our own policies and therefore giving a green light to the potential building of other such buildings elsewhere in the district.

“We have to be really careful with our own policies and protect them because once we let people contravene them then there’s no good reason for opposing them elsewhere either.”

Woodbury Parish Council supports keeping the building.

East Devon

Exeter Vaccination Centre at Greendale. Image: Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.

East Devon: Greendale Covid vaccination centre must be demolished by the end of 2023