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Ash Aspect: Hopes Fade that Bewley Land in Ash Will Be Used for Healthcare Purposes

Published on: 22 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 25 Sep, 2023

By David Reading

The plot of land set aside by Bewley Homes as the site for a new GPs’ surgery in Ash is now highly unlikely to be used for a healthcare facility.

Instead, Guildford Borough Council says it is “actively exploring” the use of the land “for community purposes.”

The land in question is sited on the new estate of 481 homes at Ash Lodge Park. Bewley Homes – the development company building the estate – set aside the land for a GPs’ surgery in 2019 under a Section 106 legal agreement with the council, a system that requires developers to secure benefits for the area where they are building.

The site in Ash set aside for a doctors’ surgery.

It was felt this would meet the area’s primary healthcare requirements, bearing in mind that many hundreds of new homes were being built in Ash and Tongham.

But that plan was dashed when the Frimley Integrated Care Board (ICB) – the NHS body responsible for developing plans to meet the health needs of the local population – said it didn’t want the land and instead intended to develop and improve existing primary care services at local surgeries.

At that point, it still seemed possible that the land could be used for some kind of healthcare facility. Although Bewley said it had exhausted all efforts to ensure the land would be put to its original proposed use as a GPs’ surgery, it instructed Colliers, the commercial property agents, to market the land for sale for an alternative healthcare use.

This week it became clear that the healthcare use for the land was off the table.

GBC issued a statement saying: “Under the planning legal agreement, we required a facility for healthcare in Ash. The NHS is not interested. The applicant also carried out an extensive marketing campaign. There was no serious interest from other healthcare providers. The land now cascades to possible community use. We’re now actively exploring the use of the land for community purposes.”

That possibility forms part of the original section 106 agreement.

Cllr Sue Wyeth-Price (Ash South, Residents for Guildford and Villages) commented:

“I am disappointed that the healthcare services we have been promised for over five years now will not be delivered, especially as the level of service in the area has notably declined in the last few years.


Cllr Sue Wyeth-Price

“However, I am pleased that at last the council appears to be looking at how the land (estimated at £2 million) can be used for the benefit of the community. I will be encouraging the council to involve the residents in the decision on what the land might be used for. Residents really do need to start seeing some benefits of the £16 million pounds in contributions from these developments.”

Bewley Homes have been invited to comment.

Whatever happens to the land,  the question of how local surgeries will handle the huge influx of new residents remains.

Assurances were given to the public in January that they would be able to cope. However this would appear to be contradicted by the fact that in May the Bartlett Group Practice announced they were closing their lists, temporarily, to new patients.

The statement offering assurances had come in a letter from NHS Frimley to Surrey Heath MP Michael Gove, after we approached the MP’s office for information.

NHS Frimley explained that work had been taking place at both the Bartlett Practice and the Border Practice in order to boost capacity at both surgeries, and investment had been made in digital technology to improve patient access to services.

It was said that 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.

Detailing the improvements, the statement 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 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 under way, the statement said, 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.

Reasons given by NHS Frimley for not taking up the Bewley site included the following:

  • The housing 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, as pointed out in January, this strategy seemed to be flawed. First, the Local Plan provided for 1,870 new homes in the area, making the figure of 2,000 new patients a gross under-estimate assuming an occupancy of two, three or four people per home.

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

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