New £1m veterinary surgery to open in city suburb

Westover Vets is opening a new surgery at the bridal shop in Rackheath 

Chris Tomlinson is opening a new veterinary surgery in Rackheath this year - Credit: Google Maps/Westover Veterinary Practice

A Norfolk animal surgeon is forking out more than £1million on a retirement project to open a new vets in Norwich.

Chris Tomlinson, 65, secured planning permission in December to set up the business in the Rackheath Industrial Estate. 

He will be retiring from North Walsham-based Westover Vets in April after nearly 31 years, and has decided to create a new commercial enterprise at the outgoing Dreams Bridal shop.

The surgery will be a staged development with the initial cost of buying and transforming the building in the region of £1,200,000.

Mr Tomlinson then intends to employ more people and take on more office space as the surgery expands.

And after three years he plans to move the office upstairs and install a lift to potentially provide clinical treatments.

The surgery will also offer work experience opportunities for budding animal lovers. 

Mr Tomlinson said: "Retiring this April meant I could just relax and do nothing.

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"But I thought why not have a bit of fun and take on a new challenge by setting up this new practice with sympathy for those who want to do work experience? 

"I chose Rackheath as a growing site which is at the start of the NDR. It's not too far from my point of view as I live in Hainford.

"I had been considering Rackheath and Salhouse for a while as there are hopes for an eco-village and it is a growing place."

Chris Tomlinson, partner for small animals at Westover Veterinary Centre, North Walsham, who treated

Chris Tomlinson is opening a new veterinary surgery in the outgoing Dreams Bridal shop in Rackheath - Credit: Archant

Mr Tomlinson is eying September as an opening date for the new surgery with internal changes to the building anticipated to begin in March. 

There will initially be three vets, three receptionists and three veterinary nurses at the surgery which could change depending on demand. 

The surgeon is currently one of four directors at Westover Vets which has sites in North Walsham, Hainford, Caistor and Cromer.

Rackheath's Wendover Road surgery will focus solely on small animals. 

Mr Tomlinson added: "At the moment, most practices in Norwich are being bought up by large corporations which takes away some of the opportunities for younger vets.

"We like being independent and have people to carry on doing that."

How has a veterinary surgery changed in four decades? 

Mr Tomlinson started work at Westover Vets in 1991 having moved to Norfolk from Cornwall, where he worked in a mixed general practice. 

The surgeon, who qualified in 1980, also spent three years working at an agricultural centre in Tanzania for three years through the Church Missionary Society. 

He said his industry is almost unrecognisable to what it was when he began 42 years ago. 

"We have scanners, x-rays and very accurate blood measures to analyse if an animal is sick," Mr Tomlinson said.

"Endoscopes never came in the 1980s so there has been a whole revolution similar to what we have seen in medicine." 

Westover Vets will move to its new surgery next week. Photo: Simon Watson

A file picture of Westover Veterinary Centre staff - Credit: Archant

The Norfolk surgeon also stated the coronavirus pandemic has put a lot of pressure on staff.

"It's been jolly hard work and people do get tired," he added.