New health centre to be built in Belmont despite hundreds of objections
Protesters jeered as councillors gave planning permission for a new health centre to be built in Belmont last night.
Sutton Council's development control committee granted permission for developer Assura to build a state-of-the-art new medical centre in Homeland Drive on the site of the old Henderson Hospital at a meeting yesterday.
More than 200 people filled the meeting room at Sutton Council's civic offices yesterday
The new facility will house the Belmont and the Grove Road and Benhill GP practices as well as a new pharmacy.
A group of nine houses will also be built on the site, which has been disused since 2009.
But people living in the area near the site submitted hundreds of objections and more than 200 people turned up to last night's meeting wearing yellow stickers to signal their opposition to the plans.
They believe it will cause an increase in traffic to the area, clog surrounding roads up with cars and cause vulnerable people to have to walk more than 400m from the nearest bus stop.
The Liberal Democrat majority on the development control committee voted in favour of the application with only Conservative Councillor Tony Shields voting against it. His Tory colleague Coun Graham Witham was late to the meeting meaning he could not vote.
The meeting was a resumption of a meeting held at the end of December that went on so long that it had to be adjourned to last night.
Over the course of the two meetings the committee heard from the developer, doctors from both the Grove Road and Benhill and Belmont practices as well as objectors.
Speaking at last night's meeting, Dr Jeffrey Croucher of the Benhill and Belmont GP centre said: "GP services are under unprecedented strain.
"In addition, there is a need to access to our surgeries now and in the future. The current buildings will not be able to meet those requirements."
"We need to make bold changes to how we are organised and run. The proposed development will provide convenient, accessible and sustainable medical care for the lifetime of everyone in this room."
Where the new centre will be built
Coun Tony Shields drew cheers from the audience when he spoke against the application and suggested the Sutton Hospital site in Cotswold Road might be a more appropriate venue.
Backing the proposal, Liberal Democrat councillors said they recognised people's concerns over the project but thought, on balance, they should give it planning permission.
Coun Stan Theed said: "It's quite clear it's a matter where it's difficult to come to one conclusion, it's a question of balance.
"The objections are understandable.
There are apprehensive people in this audience and I understand their feelings but against that we have medical practices who have been waiting for a new home for 10 years."
Coun Wendy Mathys added: "There are about 20,000 people on the patient lists at the two surgeries and that's a lot of people who aren't here tonight but may be quite happy with this proposal."
The committee voted five to one in favour of the application.
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