Anger as Portsmouth student flats block is built without promised GP surgery
CITY councillors have voiced their disappointment after a student block in Southsea was built without a 'much-needed' GP surgery that was promised.
Permission for 41 student rooms on the corner of Fawcett Road and Heyward Road was granted several years ago when a government inspector ruled that there was no reason for refusal.
As part of the development, which sparked controversy with residents and councillors when it first came to committee, a doctors' surgery and pharmacy was planned for the ground floor.
But since then a 43-room student block without a surgery and pharmacy has been built for which developers are now seeking retrospective permission.
Deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council and planning committee member, Councillor Steve Pitt, found this frustrating. 'One of the reasons that block was given permission in the first place was because it was going to provide a much-needed surgery,' he said.
'My understanding from conversations with the university is that we have enough bespoke university accommodation in the city and we do not need more.'
Fellow committee member, Cllr Luke Stubbs, agreed. He said: 'I would be disappointed to lose this facility.
'There are lengthy queues to get to GP surgeries across Portsmouth at the moment. Most people would say that more surgeries are really needed.
'I think the committee will want to see evidence that there's no-one wanting to take up that space.'
As part of the original proposals the new doctors surgery would have replaced and expanded the neighbouring Heyward Road Surgery. But before construction began it became part of the Portsdown Group Practice.
Mark Stubbings, managing partner at the Portsdown Group Practice, said: 'Portsdown Group Practice merged with the Heyward Road Surgery about three years ago. We were aware of the development's potential and in simple terms there were no advantages to us moving out of that surgery and into a bigger one, patient care being a priority.'
For developers JCL this meant they opted for extra student rooms instead. Kate Harris, business manager for the company, said: 'Our preference was always to have a doctors surgery and pharmacy on the ground floor of the Fawcett Road building.
'If the surgery's position changes in the future, then this can still be considered as an option. From our discussions with the planning department, however, we needed to submit a new application for due process'
Another committee member, Cllr Donna Jones, added: 'Obviously empty space in a building of this size is not good for the community and the conversion into additional student bedrooms therefore frees up family homes in the immediate area and appears to be a good use of space,' she said.
'However, when it comes to committee we will judge it on its merits. In principle it looks great but it needs to be given full consideration.'
The retrospective application will go to a future committee meeting.