By Andy Tong

GRAND PLANS Proposed new medical centre

LACK of parking space at Tonbridge’s new three-storey medical centre to be built on the site of the Teen and Twenty Club means patients may have to use taxis or public transport to visit the doctor.

That was the warning from Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s Area 1 planning committee last week [February 22] when it granted permission for the demolition of the club and the construction of a surgery and pharmacy on the site.

Members gave the go-ahead to the controversial development despite concerns about the parking provision, flood risk, surface water drainage, air quality and the felling of a mature chestnut tree.

Only Judd Councillors Peter Bolt and David Cure spoke and voted against the development, questioning the committee’s independence on the basis that the council was selling its own property.

The centre will be run by Tonbridge Medical Group [TMG], replacing its existing surgeries on Higham Lane and Pembury Road. It plans to cater for 225 appointments per day whereas the two other facilities were only able to offer 150 between them.

The developer, Assura, who will build the centre, was sold the land at below market value by the council and will continue to own it, with TMG renting it out.

Head of Planning Louise Reid noted that 16 spaces for patients was not ‘sufficient to meet demand’ – ‘the opportunities for using other town centre car parks, obtaining a lift from a relative or getting a taxi will need to be brought into play’.

She added that the six spaces set aside for doctors, pharmacists and other staff was also inadequate, predicting: “The majority of staff will need to get to work through a variety of means such as walking, bus, cycling, car lift/share, parking further afield and then walking’.

Ms Reid said: “The central location of the site and its ability to be served by public transport combined with the proximity of public car parks for those making journeys by private car would mean that despite the limited size of the car park on site, there would not be an unacceptable adverse impact on highway safety arising from the development.”

The area is designated to be at high risk of flooding but the committee quoted the flood risk assessment (FRA) which said that there was no other appropriate site available in a low-risk area: “This is the only site reasonably available to the owner.”

Ms Reid’s report added: “It is clear that TMG have been seeking to identify a new site for consolidation of their activities for some time, indeed the FRA cites 10 years, going on to explain that this site represents the only viable and deliverable location.

“The specific location of this development is key to its importance and therefore it is not possible to use an alternative site.”

The demise of the old tree, which had become something of a cause celebre in the campaign to save the Teen and Twenty Club,  was rubberstamped because it is suffering from bleeding canker which gives it a ‘limited life expectancy’.

Ms Reid stated: “I have no doubt that the loss of the tree will be notable in visual terms but this must be balanced against the wider benefits arising from the development of this site in the way proposed. Given the conclusions drawn about its relative longevity, I consider that the loss of the tree is justified.”