Plans for new health centre in Stansted rejected

A DECADE-long saga over a community’s desperate need for new and improved medical facilities is set to rumble on after planners refused to grant permission for a state-of-the-art health centre to be built.

Uttlesford District Council’s planning committee narrowly rejected the application by developer Pelham Structures to build a five-storey complex at the former Castle Lotus and TVR garage at the bottom of Lower Street.

It was refused on the grounds that the development was overbearing and the design was not in keeping with the street scene surrounding it.

The structure was compared to the Titanic by a number of councillors, with Cllr Janet Menell saying it would look like a Christmas tree when lit up at night.

Cllr Bob Eastham was one of the members to voice his displeasure about the look of the structure.

“Nobody is doubting the need for a health centre and it is clear everbody wants it,” he said.

“What we are saying is let’s have the centre on this site but let’s design it properly. Stansted is a pretty village so let’s not stick a wart on its face.”

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This view was backed by Cllr Keith Mackman, who added: “This application should be rejected on the basis of overdevelopment and it being inappropriate in keeping with the surrounding street scene.”

But other members stressed the dire need for a health centre and made the point that the saga had rumbled on since 1970 - when talk of a new health centre first began.

Cllr Jackie Cheetham said she still had the scars from the previous meeting to discuss building a health centre at Foresthall Park about eight years ago.

“Although I have only been involved for the last 10, this has been going on for 20 years. We must remember we are in the 21st century and to look at this as a new design.”

She backed the comments of both Cllr Vic Ranger and Cllr Keith Eden, who agreed the existing site did not do much for the conservation area, with the latter branding it “a dump”.

Cllr Eden added: “Saying the design will damage the nearby conservation area is tripe. This development will be an improvement and I think it is an attractive building.”

But ultimately councillors chose to reject the application seven to six.

Plans were for the development to include 14 flats, two shops, a GP surgery, pharmacy and an NHS dentist.

A number of criticisms had been highlighted by opponents of the proposal – mainly surrounding the look and size of the building near to the conservation area.

The parish council also raised concerns about parking, which members felt was insufficient to cater for the demands of the project.

Pelham Structures has been working alongside NHS West Essex primary care trust to deliver the multimillion pound project – with �6 million funding believed to be set aside for the health centre element.

However, this appears to be in jeopardy, with the body set to be disbanded in April 2013 and replaced by new Care Commissioning Groups.

WHAT do you think about the decision to reject plans for Stansted’s new health centre? E-mail sam.tonkin@archant.co.uk

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