PLANS to build a ‘much-needed’ new medical centre in Marston Green on a ‘vital wedge’ of greenbelt land have been approved.
A Solihull Council planning committee meeting this week gave plans the go-ahead despite the admission the new surgery will represent ‘inappropriate development’ within the greenbelt.
But councillors unanimously agreed the development on Ivy Lodge Close in Marston Green, Solihull, met the ‘very special circumstances’ exemption required to satisfy national and local policies – and allow construction on the greenbelt.
The ‘very special circumstances’ condition was granted due to the existing doctors’ surgery on Chelmsley Lane being regarded as ‘woefully inadequate’ and needing replacement.
Plans involve the demolition of Oliver House and the construction of a new medical building with a pharmacy, cafe, children’s nursery, gymnasium and 95 car parking spaces.
It will have a podiatry service, optician, MRI, ultrasound and x-ray facilities onsite with space for a mobile vehicle scanning and medical imaging unit in the car park.
Speaking on behalf of his company Marston Medical Ltd Dr Victor Sagoo said: “I have been a GP for 17 years in Marston Green and I am passionate about providing the best healthcare service for my patients and the community even when I am long gone.
“We have been at full capacity at our surgery in Chelmsley Lane for a number of years and with two neighbouring GPs’ practices closing down in recent years due to NHS pressures we have had to take on additional patients from far and beyond our catchment area.
“We as a practice are struggling to provide the services expected from us by the NHS because we simply do not have the space or the facilities.
“We have been looking for land for the last 10 years to build a much-needed new surgery and we have been met with disappointment along the way with sites sold on to housing developers.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Without this we will almost certainly have to move out of Marston Green and find land elsewhere. This would be a disaster.”
But Richard Cobb of the Bickenhill and Marston Green Parish Council spoke against the application.
He said: “The parish council have long campaigned for better facilities to the current very restricted GP practice in Chelmsley Lane.
“But the parish council believes that the ‘very special circumstances’ which have been put forward by the applicant should not disguise the fact this proposal intrudes significantly into a vital wedge of greenbelt open land which has long been identified in the community.
“I estimate somewhere about 80 per cent of the site is greenbelt open space.
“The parish council fears that this precedent will mean more green land will be sacrificed to housing.
“The new building is four times the size of the existing practice. And parking spaces will be insufficient to manage demand.
“The proposals are out of scale with the site and the Marston Green community.”
The ‘very special circumstances’ exemption permits building on greenbelt appears in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework which otherwise aims to prevent urban sprawl and the unnecessary loss of open greenbelt land.