Whitchurch medical centre plan is rejected at emotional meeting
A divisive application that would have provided Whitchurch with a new medical centre but demolished an historic building has been rejected.
The Wrekin Housing Trust application for 74 supported residential units, a health centre, a pharmacy, cafe, and community rooms at Pauls Moss in Whitchurch was rejected by Shropshire Council's North Planning Committee – with the chairman's casting vote backing planning officers in their recommendation for refusal after the committee was deadlocked a 4-4.
During a heated, and at times emotional meeting, councillors heard from five speakers in support of the application, and one against.
The committee had been asked to balance the potential benefits of a new medical centre against the potential harm to the conservation area surrounding the Pauls Moss mansion, of demolishing the building and replacing it with the new facility.
The council officers had also recommended refusal because of the scale of the development proposed.
Councillor Peggy Mullock, who represents Whitchurch North, implored her colleagues to approve the application, appearing tearful as she finished addressing the committee.
She said: "I know the officers' recommendation is to refuse this plan but, sorry, the health of residents of my town, Whitchurch is the most important priority."
Earlier, Councillor Thomas Biggins, who represents also Whitchurch North, had told the committee that the town faces a crisis in GP care, with the closure of one practice, and the planned retirement of two partner GPs.
He said: "This new medical centre will attract young doctors into the town but without it as on GP said, we are looking at a medical catastrophe in Whitchurch.
"It would not be perfect, and certainly needs more care parking, but as a Whitchurch councillor I am not prepared to risk the lives of Whitchurch residents."
Earlier Dr Clare Bellingham, a member of a group campaigning against the demolition of the house, said: "We value our conservation area in Whitchurch, we are a historic market town. This house could be brought back into public use."
Planning committee member, councillor Vince hunt, who represents Oswestry West, said the new development would not sit comfortably within the conservation area.
He said: "I think it will be a substantial harm to the conservation area, I do not like saying that, I do not like being in that position."
Councillor Hunt said that the problem of a GP practice for the town should already have been tackled by Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group.
He said: "I think it is almost reprehensible that there is not a facility being built at this very moment but I think it is something for the CCG to address, not the planning committee."