The rest of the development’s local centre, comprising offices, a community building, healthcare facility and retail unit with flats approve was given the thumbs up by the council’s planning committee today (Wednesday March 2).
The YMCA has been brought on board to run the community centre, which will include a children’s day nursery, while negotiations are in an advanced stage with a national convenience store operator to take on the retail unit.
However the clinical commissioning group’s preference is for new medical facilities for Chichester to be within the Southern Gateway scheme rather than at Whitehouse Farm (WHF) as a city centre location ‘is a much better choice for residents and allows for community services and primary care to co-locate’
According to the NHS representation the GP practices ‘do not have services that are possible to be run from an additional site such as WHF’ and while it may be possible to encourage a practice to the site, this would almost certainly require inducements such as offering the premises at a peppercorn rate.
It concludes that whilst unlikely to happen, the WHF site should be kept open whilst the Southern Gateway is progressing.
Nick Billington, agent for the scheme, said they were still ‘actively seeking’ an operator for the building earmarked for healthcare.
While John-Henry Bowden (LDem, Chichester West) ‘broadly welcomed’ the application, he felt it was ‘absurd’ that 4,000 residents could move in an all be expected to travel to the Southern Gateway to visit their GP.
He told the committee this significant new part of the city ‘needs its own medical facilities’.
Graeme Barrett (Con, The Witterings) added: “For 4,000 residents we need at least two GPS locally. I’m very sad we are not pushing for that.”
Rev Bowden also asked if they should be more flexible with the offices, allowing for a wider range of use classes, and asked for assurances a ‘villainous’ operator would not be brought in to manage the car park next to the community centre.
Several speakers were critical of the building’s designs, including Roy Briscoe (Con, Westbourne), who likened them to a ‘post-war new town’.
But council planning officers suggested design is a subjective matter and the application’s detail had improved significantly since it was first submitted.
After a two-hour debate the application was approved unanimously subject to conditions.