Essex villagers’ health centre bid moves a step closer

ESSEX villagers’ long-running desire to get a state-of-the-art health centre in their community has moved a step closer.

Nearly 1,200 people have signed a petition to get better provision in Sible Hedingham and Castle Hedingham, whose existing facilities are in converted homes.

Their campaign was boosted earlier this month when a blueprint to build about 200 houses and a care home on a derelict factory site in Sible Hedingham passed its first hurdle.

Braintree District Council’s local development framework sub-committee supported a masterplan for the former Premdor and Rockways site in Swan Street. Last week, at a full meeting of the council, a recommendation to support villagers’ bid for better healthcare facilities was unanimously passed.

If the council’s cabinet supports the masterplan – and an NHS feasibility study recommends that the community needs better facilities – villagers could be handed land for the health centre as part of a future planning application on the former factory site, which closed around three years ago.

Gill Massey, chairman of Sible Hedingham Parish Council, said: “Graham Butland, leader of Braintree District Council, said on Monday he had spoken to the NHS who were sympathetic but that we’d have to join the queue for funding.

“There’s a very severe need in Sible and Castle Hedingham. Both of the existing doctors’ surgeries are in premises which are just houses, they’re not suitable for the 21st Century.

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“Parking is a problem and they can’t do minor operations.

“Sible Hedingham Parish Council and villagers were very concerned about this and a number of us got a petition together.

“There is cautious optimism (after’s the district council’s feedback) but as a community we’re not expecting to sit back and see things fall into our lap.

“We’ll have to jump up and down to make things happen and we’re prepared to do that.”

Mr Butland said: “In the 21st Century it would be good to have a general practice out of a purpose-built building rather than houses.”

Councillor Hylton Johnson, who represents the villages on the district council, added: “It’s very important because at the moment people are having to come into use inadequate facilities.”