Norwich walk-in centre bosses “very confident” over future of services
Bosses at the Timber Hill Health Centre have said they are confident the walk-in centre and GP services will remain in the city centre, even though councillors have agreed to plans which will move it from its current location in Castle Mall.
But mystery still surrounds whether the centre will move to a new site within the shopping centre - following a fresh offer from the owners of the Castle Mall - or whether an alternative site will be used.
The lease for the £2m walk-in centre, which opened in the Castle Mall in July 2009, has not been renewed and is due to run out in September.
InfraRed, the owners of Castle Mall, had offered a new home for the centre on a lower level of the mall, with a new restaurant quarter created where the centre is currently based.
Norwich Practices Ltd, which runs the health centre, including a walk-in centre and GP surgery, had opposed the switch.
And NHS England had been looking at alternative sites in the city centre for a walk-in centre.
But, at yesterday’s meeting of Norwich City Council’s planning committee, there was an eleventh hour announcement that Norwich Practices Ltd had withdrawn their objection to the plans, which would see the health centre make way for restaurants and for a unit in level 2 to be earmarked for use as a health centre.
Steve Bloomfield, business manager, said in a note submitted to the city council: “I am writing, on behalf of Norwich Practices Ltd, to confirm that, having had further discussions with InfraRed, we have, subject to finalising the details, been able to agree terms which would allow us time for a phased withdrawal of the Timber Hill Health Centre to allow a new health centre to be opened at another site in the city centre.
“We, therefore wish to withdraw all our objections to the plan to redevelop the site and are prepared to support both applications.”
He then told the committee he would not want councillors to “block off” the option of moving to the alternative unit in the Castle Mall, but said there were other options as well.
Afterwards, Mr Bloomfield said he was “very confident” both the registered practice and the walk-in centre, would stay in the centre of Norwich and a continuous service would be offered.
But, with negotiations still ongoing, he said he was unable to discuss where the centre would be based.
A representative for InfraRed told the committee that a 10-year lease had been offered for the health centre on a lower level and that the refit would be at no cost to the public purse.
And, following the meeting, Kate Norton, director of commissioning for NHS England East Anglia said: “We confirm that we are still fully committed to working with Timber Hill to ensure there is a continuous service for patients registered with the practice.
“We remain confident that a solution will be found that will also enable the walk in service to continue in the city centre as we work with the Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group to agree the longer term plan to improve access to primary care services.”
Thousands of people have signed petitions calling for the health centre to remain in Castle Mall.
Norwich City Council officers had recommended there was no reason to refuse the applications on planning grounds.
Business bosses, including Castle Mall manager Paul McCarthy, said putting restaurants where the centre is currently based would be a huge boost for the city centre.
Councillors granted permission for the changes. Four members of the committee withdrew from the vote after saying they had already formed a ‘prejudicial’ view, while a call to defer making a decision was defeated on the casting vote of chairman Ralph Gayton.
• Do you have a health story? Call Adam Gretton on 01603 772419 or email firstname.lastname@example.org