40-year wait for health centre in the balance

A COMMUNITY’S 40-year wait for up-to-date health care facilities is hanging in the balance after planning officials turned down an application for a state-of-the-art medical centre.

Langley Upper Green-based developer Pelham Structures put forward a proposal to build a five-storey structure at the former Castle Lotus and TVR Garage at the bottom of Lower Street in Stansted Mountfitchet.

The application also included plans for two retail outlets and 14 flats.

However, the planning committee at Uttlesford District Council narrowly rejected the application by seven to six – forcing the developer to consider its options.

The firm’s director Bill Bampton said he would be meeting with NHS West Essex PCT “imminently” to ascertain the body’s position in the wake of the latest development.

Around �6 million has been earmarked for the project, although nothing can be signed and made official until planning permission is granted.

The Reporter understands that the funding set aside by the PCT is still secure and that its position has not changed despite the knock-back.

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However, with Care Commissioning Groups (CCGs) set to replace PCTs when the latter are disbanded in April 2013, the situation still leaves members of the community in limbo over whether or not they will receive much-needed new facilities.

At last Wednesday’s meeting (May 30), the committee rejected the proposal on the grounds the development was overbearing and the design was not in keeping with the street scene surrounding it.

Although Mr Bampton told the Reporter the firm would look to redesign the building by “taking onboard the legitimate comments that had been made”, he said this would only be done if the company was in a position to take the proposal further following discussions with those involved.

“I think the proposal being rejected by one vote was infinitely better than it being passed by one vote because we do not want to be in a position where we are attempting to impose a structure on the village and the community if it is not what they want,” he added.

Chairman of the parish council, Geoffrey Sell, told the Reporter he hoped the committee’s decision would force Pelham Structures to “go back to the drawing board and come back with a revised design”.

“We told Pelham Structures that we were not happy with the design a long time ago but they said it was something they would not compromise on,” he said.

“I hope we can work together with all the interested parties so that we can salvage something from this and ensure that Stansted and the surrounding villages receive the new health centre they so desperately need.”