On Wednesday, Sutton Council approved controversial plans to relocate a GPs’ surgery at the former Henderson Hospital site on Belmont Heights. Two hundred or so angry residents booed and jeered after the proposal was voted through by five votes to one at the Council’s Development Control Committee. The lone voice on the panel against the development was Conservative councillor, Tony Shields. Like so many of the nearby residents, Tony understood the need for a new, larger surgery but believed that this site was the wrong location. Lack of parking, increased traffic in a residential cul-de-sac and packing too much onto the site were the key reasons for Tony to vote against.
Despite some of the five Liberal Democrat councillors arguing on much the same ground as Cllr Shields, when they were asked to decide, they voted en masse in favour of granting the former Liberal Democrat Mayor, Dr Brendan Hudson and his colleagues the ability to move his surgery from Mulgrave Road in Sutton to Belmont.
Many people have long argued that Sutton Hospital would be the better and more obvious site to locate such a surgery, with better transport links and more space to plan parking and easy access. Although the Chairman of the Development Control Committee made the assumption that Sutton Hospital would not be up for redevelopment for six years or so, it transpires that significant parts of the sites are being vacated within a matter of months and the Epsom & St Helier Hospital Trust who own that land have said that they will review the situation for healthcare on that site. The GPs affected have been looking for a suitable site for ten years. Cllr Shields made the point that a few more months for the best site would not make much difference. On Monday I will be presenting a petition to a full meeting of the Council on behalf of many of the people who attended the planning committee asking that the council do not sell the part of the Henderson Hospital site that remains under their ownership until they have undertaken a meaningful consultation with local residents. It’s a long shot admittedly but when the council makes the wrong decision due to lack of organisation between three public sector bodies and sheer intransigence, we need to keep plugging away. I’ll report back as to how I get on.