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Ash Aspect: Ash and Tongham Will Cope With Population Boom, Say Authorities

Published on: 13 Jan, 2023
Updated on: 17 Jan, 2023

By David Reading

The people of Ash and Tongham have been given fresh assurances that moves are in hand to ensure that the large rise in the area’s population, created by new housing developments, will not overwhelm the local infrastructure.

Two issues in particular – primary healthcare and schools – are among those that have taken centre stage ever since the Ash Lodge Park housing estate was given the go-ahead in 2017.  This is the largest of many developments that have either been built or are at present going ahead in Ash and Tongham. Can local services cope?

Healthcare

The NHS strategy is to increase capacity at the existing GP practices rather than build a new primary healthcare centre, even though land has been set aside for this purpose. But an NHS statement on this matter has raised questions about this strategy.

We pointed out in October that the approval for many hundreds of new homes in the area over the past few years – many already occupied – means there is a real possibility of a primary healthcare crisis in Ash and Tongham.

Initially, Bewley Homes – the development company that was granted permission to build 481 homes at Ash Lodge Park – had earmarked a plot of land on the site for a new purpose-built GPs’ surgery.

But a statement from Fiona Edwards, NHS Frimley’s chief executive, says this option is not being pursued for a number of reasons including the following:

  • The developments at present taking place across Ash could result in a total of around 2,000 new patients needing to register with a GP. A new branch surgery typically requires at least 6,000-9,000 patients to make it viable and sustainable.
  • The 1,200 square metre plot proposed for a health facility would have allowed for premises with no more than three or four consulting rooms, which would not support a patient list big enough to ensure a viable and sustainable GP health facility.

However, those figures are open to question. First, the Local Plan provides for 1,870 new homes in the area, making the figure of 2,000 new patients a gross under-estimate assuming the normal occupancy rate of two to three people per home.

Furthermore, Bewley has confirmed that the land set aside on its new development actually covers an area of 2,700 square metres – not 1,200.

Those discrepancies would seem to undermine the whole strategy.

NHS Frimley’s statement came in a letter to Surrey Heath MP Michael Gove, after we approached the MP’s office for information.

Ms Edwards said works have been taking place at both the Bartlett Group Practice in Ash Vale and the Border Practice in order to boost capacity at both surgeries, and investment has been made in digital technology to improve patient access to services.

The two GP practices had concluded that developing existing services offered the best solution rather than building a new health centre. This was achievable and represented better use of public funds.

Ms Edwards’ statement cited a further reason why the option for a new healthcare centre was not being taken up. The proposal included no financial contribution towards the actual construction, she said. The creation of new healthcare developments elsewhere in the broader Frimley Health and Care ICS had been made possible through financial contributions towards construction.

Detailing the improvements, she said the Ash Vale centre had been reconfigured internally to create an extra three clinical rooms. This had been funded by NHS Frimley, with some costs covered by the developer contributions (under section 106 legal agreements). The works were complete and already enabling the practice to accommodate more appointments.

The Border Practice was also being developed with an internal reconfiguration to create two new consulting rooms, allowing more patients to be seen.

In addition, work was underway to ensure more capacity in Bartlett’s Frimley Green Medical Centre. The work to this building would include an extension housing three more consulting rooms, as well as a dedicated phlebotomy room. This work was scheduled to be completed by the spring.

Ash Manor School Image Google Maps

Children’s Education

Guildford Borough Council has given The Dragon details of funding for schools and nurseries in the area, collected from developers as part of the planning approval process.

GBC’s statement on funding for schools came from Cllr Tom Hunt, lead councillor for Planning Development.

He said the council currently held the following funds for schools and nurseries in the Ash and Tongham areas:

  • Early Years – £321,367.67
  • Primary education – £2,647,551.94 (of which £2,558,716.14 is specifically for Ash Grange School)
  • Secondary education – £352,084.59

All this has been collected from developers in line with section 106 legal obligations.

Cllr Tom Hunt

Cllr Hunt said: “There are very strict rules governing the use of section 106 contributions. The money is used to fund projects that lessen the impact of new development on the existing infrastructure and services in the area. The aim is to ensure it serves the needs arising from the development and this determines where the money is spent.

“In the last 12 months, we have passed £1,437,024 to Surrey County Council for a project at Ash Manor School. Moving forward, we have secured a further £2,696,962 by signed section 106 agreements. This will be spent on education serving Ash and Tongham.”

He said the recipients will be:

  • Tongham Day Care or Challengers, Farnham
  • Ash Grange School
  • Farnham Heath End School
  • Ash Manor School

Cllr Hunt added: “There are also a number more education projects pending. However the details have not yet been confirmed by Surrey County Council. We will only release the money when we are confident that the proposals meet the legal requirements of the section 106 obligation.”

 

 

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