Council chiefs admit ‘small risk’ that new Bedford doctors’ surgery won’t be built

Council planners and legal experts say they are doing all they can to make sure a new doctor’s surgery is built on the outskirts of Biddenham.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 9:40 am
Updated Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 9:42 am

A year’s worth of talks has taken place behind the scenes to sort out the legal complexities of making sure that Montpelier Estates builds the new surgery on land off Bromham Road near the Great Ouse Way roundabout.

Councillors in December 2019 bent their own policies to approve a plan to build a new 60-bed nursing home on the 0.3 hectare site, on the understanding that a new surgery for the De Parys Group would come first.

But Bedford Borough Council planning chief Janine Laver told a meeting on Monday that the developer was unhappy with this because they needed contracts to be in place with the NHS first.

And Mrs Laver told the planning committee that the NHS wheels “do not turn as fast as the development industry.”

So the developer had asked the council to be able to “get on with” the nursing home while negotiations with the NHS and the GP practices carried on.

“The planning officers were initially resistant to allow that to happen because it would risk the surgery not coming forward,” said Mrs Laver.

But she added that over the last 12 months there have been “extensive negotiations” between planners, the developer, the NHS and various legal advisers.

The site as presented to the committee (Google)

She said they were “trying to minimise the risk of non-delivery.”

And while they cannot force the surgery to be built the committee was told that pens are poised for the signing of a section 106 agreement.

But before that happened the planning committee had to be asked to tweak what it had agreed more than a year ago to allow work to start on the nursing home.

Councillors heard that following talks the council has “much more comfort that the surgery will be delivered.”

Mrs Laver, in her report, said: “This does pose a risk that the nursing home is developed in isolation, but it is considered to be a very small risk, but in any event even if that turned out to be the case, it is arguable that a nursing home in this location would not be out of context with the surrounding residential land parcels.”

She added that the applicant and the NHS have provided assurances to the council that they still both intend to deliver the surgery.

“The ducks are in a row as far as we can go,” she said.

And council legal officer David Doorne said they had “as good a guarantee as we can get.”

The committee agreed to reaffirm planning permission and the legal course of action recommended by their officers.