Wixams retirement village not asked to contribute to local NHS

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Extra Care Wixams / Screenshot Google Street View (C)2024 Google Image capture October 2021. Image: LDRS
Extra Care Wixams / Screenshot Google Street View (C)2024 Google Image capture October 2021. Image: LDRS

Bedford Borough Council planners have not sought a financial contribution for the “existing Wixams Surgery Practice” from a retirement village’s expansion, a meeting heard.

The Planning Committee (20 May) was told contributions had not been sought during previous phases of the site’s construction.

And the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) Integrated Care Board (ICB) “did not provide justification” for claiming the expansion could require changes to the surgery.

Members of the council were asked to determine a planning application to expand the Extra Care Wixams Retirement Village by 57 units.

Councillor Martin Towler (Conservative, Riseley) said the planning officer’s report included a statement from BLMK ICB that if approved there could be capacity issues at the surgery.

“Then later on in the report… there’s no money for health within Wixams, [there] seems to be a discourse within the report,” he said.

“Wixams is certainly one place that needs as much money for its health service as anywhere else.

“And it seems to be wrong footing in the way we’re looking at this,” he said.

Gideon Richards, from the council’s planning department, said officers had assessed the NHS’s request.

“[With] the original retirement village there were no NHS contributions that was [sic] sought or acquired,” he said.

“The previous planning permission for the phase 2 that hasn’t been built out, but is extant which was for a higher number of units 62 units.

“Again there was no request for any kind of contribution.

“With this latest application there has been a request, but we’ve had to take into account previous applications [and] the extant permission,” he said.

“The request that’s come through from the NHS has also not come through with any kind of evidence or justification.

“So on balance officers don’t consider it reasonable to ask for that contribution in this case,” he said.

Councillor Towler suggested evidence isn’t required when it’s 57 old age pensioners moving into an area.

Mr Richards said: “That would be true of any residential development.

“[But] they have to evidence where that money would be required and be spent and that there is a demand or there is a lack of capacity within the area.

“It’s that evidence that we haven’t received,” he said.

Jon Shortland, chief officer for planning, infrastructure and economic growth, added: “This development is CIL [Community Infrastructure Levy] liable.

“So we will be receiving income into the council for spend on projects such as the surgery – if that’s what the council wants to spend the money on.

“So it’s not the case that there’s no contribution available, it’s just not a Section 106 contribution,” he said.

A Section 106 agreement can set out various planning obligations, including developer contributions towards mitigation of issues that might arise from the development.

The committee voted to pass the planning application.

Extant can mean that all pre-commencement conditions have been adequately satisfied, and the time limits set by planning conditions have not expired, or if material operations comprising the development or the use authorised by the permission have been initiated before those deadlines expire.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter