New Health Centre

New Health Centre for Wickford - will it ever happen?

A new doctor's surgery opened in July 2017 on the site of Wickford Market, having been relocated from the old London Road surgery. But residents would like to know if the town will ever get the long promised Health Centre!

With all of the new flats and houses being built in Wickford, it is well known that the increased population is not being adequately supported by the existing health service provision. Many times we have welcomed the news that a New Health Centre is being promised, only for the hopes to be dashed when nothing happens.

The Wickford Town Centre Masterplan was published in 2005, and one section of the plan included a vision of a health centre integrated with the library and community centre on the site of the swimming pool. This and other improvements to Wickford were to be paid for by building over 700 flats in the town, and although many flats have indeed been built, there have been precious few of the promised improvements, and certainly no health centre. The Masterplan was finally abandoned in 2010. see more…

Then there was the Basildon Renaissance Partnership, set up by Basildon Council in 2007 as its regeneration arm, with one-day-a-month chairman Chris Balch, which set out what turned out to be pie-in-the-sky plans for the area. This would include a new Primary Care Trust Health Centre for Wickford. The Renaissance group published 4 brochures a year outlining their wonderful plans for the area, at goodness knows what cost in terms of consultants fees etc, (and various jollies abroad) but it all came to nothing, and it was finally disbanded in 2011.

The body responsible for providing health facilities in the area at the time was South West Essex Primary Care Trust, SWEPCT, and they held numerous consultations with the public, including focus group meetings and road shows, side by side with Basildon council, but again, it all came to nothing, and SWEPCT was also disbanded in 2013.

Despite all of the above failed plans and untold wasted money and effort, there have been two occasions when a health centre came perilously close to actually happening. 

The first was in 2007 when a planning application was being decided for a medical centre and 30 sheltered apartments on the site of Frasier's Cafe Bar (and before that the Dickens Inn) in London Road (behind the Lon War restaurant). It was rejected by the planning committee when the chairperson turned it down using her casting vote, saying there was an over provision of sheltered accommodation in Wickford. She failed to understand that 30 elderly people could move out of their large properties thus freeing them up for families, and the town would also have its medical centre, and went against officers recommendations. The site now has a 5 storey block of 36 flats and 5 retail outlets. The shops are still boarded up ten years later.

The second possibility for a health centre was in 2010, on the site of the Essex Park Garage, (later a Toyota and then an Audi car showroom) next to the Co-op roundabout. 
An outline planning application for a medical centre on the site was approved, for a doctor's surgery, a second building which would be suitable for a new medical centre, and a block of 24 flats. more… 
Nothing was to come of this, and an alternative proposal for flats was agreed, and is now completed, as shown left.

And in all this time Basildon council has been controlled by the Conservatives, so what have our councillors been doing? The short answer is ‘nothing’, but here’s what they’ve been promising:

Election promises
  • Carole Morris, 2008 A ‘Mini Hospital’ for Wickford. Basildon Council has granted permission for a Mini hospital in Wickford Town centre. ‘This is great news, it means that at last we will be able to have all the additional doctors and dentists that the people of Wickford have been asking for, and much more.’ Says Carole Morris. [Nine years later, where is it?] 
  • Tony Ball election leaflet 2010. IMPROVING LOCAL SERVICES. Healthcare is vitally important to all of us and Wickford Conservative Councillors have been at the forefront of plans for the NHS to build the new health centre in Wickford. Both Labour and Liberal Councillors voted against transferring the land to the NHS.
  • Mike Mowe election leaflet 2011 '.. to press for a New Health Centre for Wickford...'
  • Conservative leaflet 2011. NEW WICKFORD HEALTH CENTRE COMING SOON. Wickford Conservative Councillors have moved quickly to ensure that health provision is improved in Wickford following the termination of negotiations to secure a development partner for the town. An agreement has been made to transfer the market site to the NHS to provide more GP surgeries and ancillary services like blood tests and x-rays. Residents have rightly complained at the overburdened primary care services in Wickford, the Council and NHS Trust are committed to deliver the new health centre at an early date. Announcements are expected shortly conīŦrming the timetable. The market will continue in operation on a new site yet to be decided, although our preference is to have the market in the High Street.
What now?

The now completed 2 storey building on the site of the old Wickford market houses the GP surgery which was in London Road. 
Richard Moore, Basildon Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and planning, said: “This is great news for Wickford and our residents. The new facility will provide vital public services and positively impact on the town’s wider regeneration improvements.” We fail to see how re-locating an existing doctor’s surgery is great news.

The new surgery will have 20 car parking spaces, for the staff as well as patients, despite this being far fewer than the Council’s own standards; the approval document states: The Council’s approved Vehicle Parking Standards in respect of medical centres would normally require the provision of one parking space for every full time equivalent staff plus an additional three spaces for each consulting room. However, the standards accept that a lower provision of vehicle parking may be appropriate in urban areas (including town centre locations) where there is good access to alternative forms of transport and existing car parking facilities.
You’ll just have to pay to park in the town, if you can find a space!
So, this ‘marvellous’ facility is just a re-located doctor’s surgery, and Wickford will still not have a Medical Centre