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New Health Campus

Outline Planning Review on the Health Campus

Reference P20/S2593/O

Introduction

In its submission to the pre-application (P18/S2818/PEJ) for this development, ETRA expressed its appreciation of the need to provide adequate facilities for the community. However, this application for outline planning approval represents a retrograde step.

It is unfortunate that, in contrast with the pre-application, the proposed location of the health centre itself (within the site) prohibits expansion except by means of additions to the proposed structure; the construction of which would mean disruption to the centre.

It is unfortunate that the plan to relocate all the facilities at the community hospital (‘Community Hub’) has not been followed through or fully allowed for. It does not make sense to have separate locations to treat the same medical issues. The aim was to provide a comprehensive solution.

It is unfortunate that the input and implications of Health Authority requirements have not been included. This is contrast to the pre-application discussions that emphasised, and required, the inclusion of the needs of Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Trusts. The latter are currently and obviously focussed on the Corvid 19 emergency.

It is unfortunate that proposals for the ability of GP services to have standing availability of beds in the care home for urgent need (for geriatric care) appear to have been forgotten or dealt with in a cursory manner.

It is unfortunate that an impression is given- whilst acknowledging the improvement in GP facilities- that this project is driven primarily by developer ambitions and timetable and not by the overall needs of the community. Consideration of the project within the Thame Neighbourhood Plan (version 2) would be preferable.

The above litany of negatives notwithstanding we also need to comment on the following key issues which have to be the focus of objections to this planning application:

Detailed Concerns 

Pedestrian Access proposals are not credible or accurate

  1. The pedestrian access to a pelican crossing on the Eastern Bypass (Howland Road) is shown as using a pavement at the end of Fanshawe Road. This pavement does not exist in the last section and in fact is part of the front garden of No.2. The drawing of this pavement across this resident's land is either a gross and lazy error or a violation of the resident's rights and misleading as to ease of pedestrian access to the development site. ETRA confirmed, with the residents, ownership of the land against the Land Registry records. Any attempt to narrow the road would be extremely dangerous and contrary to standards. The capability to provide the Howland Road crossing is not possible.
  2. Kingsey Road, west of the roundabout is a busy road, and is essential to cross before using the pathway onto Fanshawe Road. There are no footpaths on the south side of Kingsey Road or from Queens Road. The site plan conveniently does not show this area.  There is no traffic island and there are no traffic lights. For the less able-bodied, the infirm and parents with young children trying to cross it is a concern.
  3. For people with cars or travelling from outside Thame the proposed site is conveniently located.  However, many people who will regularly have to use the Health Centre will be elderly residents who may not drive.  Hence how will non-drivers get to the new hub and cross the bypass safely? The proposals are not convincing.
  4. Alternative access for pedestrians could be improved by installing a traffic lights (puffin) crossing point across the Kingsey Road at a point near to the access to the Rugby club.  The footway then extended parallel to Whites Farm Allotments with a traffic light crossing into the site nearer to the main vehicle access point. This would have the advantages of being a straightforward footpath route from the Town Centre, easier and safer access to the Campus, Chinnor Rugby Club, and the Thame to Haddenham and Kingsey Public Footpath Network.
  5. Also, a traffic light crossing on Kingsey Road just before the main site access would act to slow down traffic approaching the Roundabout from the Kingsey / Princes Risborough Direction.  This is a fast and straight road and there have been a number of accidents at the roundabout caused by vehicles speeding in the town centre direction and failing to stop in time. Though the extension of the 40mph limit is proposed, this proposal would have the additional advantage of allowing vehicles to exit the Health Campus at peak times. The nursery facility of 110 spaces implies traffic congestion possibilities during the rush hours.

Public Transport is insufficient:

  1. As mentioned above the old, less able bodied and those with children will find walking difficult and the provision of public transport will be key to any reduction of car use. Contrary to the Travel Plan implication, public transport does not exist to any meaningful extent in respect of going to and from the North and East of the town. The Travel Plan is a fantasy in terms of intentions not being backed by immediate effort. 
  2. Section 6.4.1 of the Travel Plan states ‘the development is located within reasonable walking distance’. Given that this Campus is going to be dealing with people in a Care Home, patients seeking medical advice and people requiring assisted living, it is hardly likely that walking is going to be a priority for the majority- especially 2km.
  3. Section 9.3.1 of the Travel Plan speaks of Cycling Buddy Schemes, Bicycle User Groups, Cycle weeks. Just hyperbole.
  4. It is correct that the 280-bus service has an average time of arrival every 30 minutes. Unfortunately, this average is achieved by ignoring the fact that the 2 services to Oxford and Aylesbury are timetabled to arrive only 2 minutes apart in the day from Monday to Friday. So, a patient, reliant on public transport, would have to arrive up to an hour before an appointment to be sure of making it.
  5. Investment from the developers should be demanded to enable proper provision of public transport- preferably on a local hopper bus service. Good intentions mean nothing.
  6. The location of the bus stop on Howland will cause congestion from the roundabout and potential danger to cars exiting from Fanshawe Road. It should be inset. 

Parking facilities threaten to be inadequate by reason of lack of adequate assessment and provision:

  1. A total of 170 car parking spaces will be provided for staff and visitors to the development as follows: Health Centre 95, Care Home 25, Assisted Living 28, Nursery 22. 
  2. The proposal is silent on the number of people working on site and their car parking requirements. This in contradiction of the OCC Highways requirement dated 21st Sept 2018 (under SODC Ref P18/S2818/PEJ) that stated: “We will require the developer to adhere to the SODC parking standards for new developments, however, information should be provided about number of staff and shift work patterns for the care home and assisted living centre, so we can reach a conclusion.” Information is absent and since then the Nursery (110 places) has been added to buildings’ provision as well as the capacity increased in the case of the Care Home & Assisted Living spaces.
  3. The approach to controlling staff travel by car stretches credibility. Theoretical intentions with regard to encouragement to staff cycling, car sharing etc are useless without an appreciation of staff numbers and shift patterns. Apart from the Health Centre, the number of care beds (75), assisted living flats (51) and nursery places (110) imply very significant staff levels. With full employment in Thame the likelihood of car travel is high. Appreciating the need for, and ensuring the provision of car parking, must be done in advance and not when damage to neighbours’ amenity values has become severe.
  4. If the car parking demands payment, as currently, the effects listed above will only be exacerbated.
  5. There is a significant danger that Fanshawe Road, Brett Close and Putman Close will become a staff, or overflow, car park for the Health Campus destroying residents’ amenity value. This threat should be dealt with now rather than left to events as the Travel Plan signals by wishing to include local residents in review groups. The above-named roads are two-thirds shared access only so making additional car parking difficult because of narrower access. There is also potential for Churchill Crescent, Griffin Road (shared access), Whittle Road (shared access) and Towersey Road to be affected by overflow parking.

Conclusion

From the original intentions, this development is falling short in its ability to deliver. It ignores, skates over or misleads in terms of its ability to address fundamental problems. You are left with the impression that it maximises value for the developer rather than secures a first rate and long-term health centre for town residents. Outline permission should not be granted unless and until the fundamental problems are tackled and satisfactory solutions found in advance. The Travel Plan, in particular, comes over as a ‘smokescreen’ which will allow damage to residents’ amenity and quality of life.