THERE has been ‘horror and dismay’ as a developer seeks to turn space earmarked for a GP surgery to serve hundreds of new homes in Oxford into flats.

CALA Homes has submitted an application to the city council to remove the condition placed on its 190-home Wolvercote Paper Mill site, arguing it has tried for more than two years to find doctors to fill the space without success.

Peter Thompson, in an objection on behalf of Oxford Civic Society, however, warned this was a ‘once in a lifetime’ chance for a new GP surgery for the area, which will also see an influx of residents from the 500 homes at the nearby Oxford North site.

He said: “We are dismayed to see that it is proposed that plans for the construction of a GP surgery on the Wolvercote Paper Mill development site are to be abandoned.

“This is in spite of the overwhelming support of the local community and the GPs and medical team of Summertown Health Centre who currently provide full medical services for the population of Wolvercote from a satellite surgery, 73 Godstow Road, a primitive single storey building, grossly unfit for medical practice in the modern era.”

ALSO READ: Royal Mail postage problems spread across Oxfordshire

He added with property prices so high in the area the practices had struggled to find new premises for years and the development presented a unique opportunity which should not be wasted.

Mr Thompson called on Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to step in to ensure a solution was found with CALA.

A supporting document from the developer with the application said it had tried to fulfil its commitment both with the local GPs and the CCG.

It said there had been ‘initially positive’ talks with Summertown Surgery but these had come to an end in May 2018, adding: “When, after a meeting with the Clinical Commissioning Group, it was communicated that the Summertown Surgery were not in a position to take on a further small branch premises.”

Oxfordshire CCG explained it has needed to focus its limited resources on areas of the county set to experience the largest population growth, pointing to Bicester and Didcot as having a more pressing need.

Oxford Mail:

CALA Homes' Wolvercote Mill Launch Day in 2019. Picture Savills/CALA Homes

Residents have also objected plans to change the scheme, which also removes workshop space to make way for seven flats on the estate which was given planning permission in 2013 and final details approved in 2018.

Denise Couling, in an online objection, said she lived very close to the site, adding: “I’m horrified to find they are withdrawing the doctors surgery and possibly village hall, in favour of further dwellings. We are over run with traffic problems already.”

Another resident, Arden Manning, said it ‘made a mockery’ of the planning process, writing: “The CALA development was sold to the community saying that there would be community space and a new desperately needed space for the GP surgery.

ALSO READ: Covid death toll rises to 10 at hospital trust this month

“It seems to be a dangerous precedent if developers are able to gain planning by promising things for the community, only to change their mind and take away the community resources afterwards.”

Deidre Price, also among more than 25 objectors, wrote: “As we are currently in a global pandemic, I can’t see how it makes public health sense to remove a possible medical facility from the community."

It comes as plans to consolidate three Oxford GP surgeries into one city centre site were approved last month.

King Edward Street Surgery and two practices at 27 and 28 Beaumont Street, all of which are considered ‘not fit for purpose’ because they are based in old, cramped buildings, will move to Cornmarket Street.

ALSO READ: New GP surgery to be built underground in Cornmarket Street

Jo Cogswell, director of transformation at Oxfordshire CCG said: “We have been working with our local authority colleagues to understand the population growth across Oxfordshire and the impact this might have on the need for primary care and its facilities.

“We have needed to prioritise our work and attention in areas where the biggest growth is expected such as in Bicester and Didcot.

“This is important as Oxfordshire CCG has to bid for capital funds for building projects from NHS England or rely on significant funding from developers. “

She added: “Without this funding we are not able to support every new housing development with a new GP surgery. Any new surgery at Wolvercote would need a significant NHS investment.

“We recognise that this means that patients may need to travel slightly further to a larger surgery base but these can often offer more services form a wider range of health professionals .”