Crunch decision over future of Norwich’s Timber Hill walk-in centre

A decision will be made this week on the future of the Timber Hill Health Centre. A decision will be made this week on the future of the Timber Hill Health Centre.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014
12:23 PM

A crunch decision on whether Norwich’s walk-in centre should be moved to make way for a new restaurant quarter is two days away, with councillors urged to agree the controversial change.

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While thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the Timber Hill Health Centre to remain in Castle Mall, Norwich City Council officers said on planning grounds there was no reason to refuse the application to move it.

And business bosses said the plan to put restaurants where the centre is currently based would be a huge boost for the city centre.

The lease for the £2m walk-in centre, which opened in July 2009, has not been renewed and is due to run out in September.

While Castle Mall landlords InfraRed have offered to provide another site in the mall, health bosses said it was not practicable.

There has been huge support for the health centre, which treats 78,000 patients a year and has 8,000 patients registered for the GP services offered there.

But, at a meeting on Thursday, city councillors will make decisions on two applications which will decide its fate.

One of the applications is for a restaurant quarter on level four, which would evict the health centre. The second application is to move the health centre to a larger empty shop unit - between the post office and the 99p Stores on level two.

Norwich Practices Ltd. which operates the centre, said it did not want to move there because of the refit costs and NHS bosses are still in negotiations about the possibility of a walk-in centre opening elsewhere in the city centre.

They have submitted three petitions against the move - an on-line petition of about 400 names, a petition from patients containing about 1,800 names and a further group of 45 patient names. The petitions call for the centre bosses to renew the lease.

In a letter sent to the council, Dr Hitesh Payel, chairman of Norwich Practices Ltd, wrote: “The number of patients using the walk-in centre increases every year and based on our own and central government surveys, we estimate that this year alone the centre has kept at least 15,000 people - an average of about 40 per day - out of already over-stretched accident and emergency services at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.”

He added: “Planning is a balancing exercise, and whilst there are clearly merits in revamping a tired shopping centre in the city centre, clearly the balance has to rest with keeping the health centre in place, allowing the people of Norwich to access the medical facilities they need without having to drive to them and ensuring the continued care of members of the public in the most suitable location available for them.”

There have also been eight letters of support, including from the Norwich Business Improvement District, the manager of Castle Mall and the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce.

They said the investment will create 120 new jobs, with the new restaurants helping to boost the economy in the city centre.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich Business Improvement District, said: “This change of use from retail and health centre to a true destination that increases the choice of good quality, affordable places to sit down, relax and eat is welcome, boosting both the daytime and evening economy.”

The committee will make its decisions when it meets at City Hall at 9.30am on Thursday.

• Do you have a health story? Call Adam Gretton on 01603 772419 or email adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

15 comments

  • they probably are but they have to start somewhere.....chaplefield is a lot newer so attracted the shops in.......i think the mall management are trying to make it better so that they can attract better shops !!

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    flax

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Opening seven new restaurants would not make it better than Chapelfield, may be if they had plans to get some shops that people what to shop at.

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    mmichael0

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Nobody planned to convert it back to a restaurant! Sometimes businesses need to change things to survive which is what the mall is trying to do and in the process it's trying to do its hardest in relocating the walk in centre with the offer of help with costs...........only some can see the full picture whilst others only see what they want to see!!!

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    flax

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Why did they spend all that money converting it from a restaurant into a health centre if they planned to change it back???? It would be a far better use to spend the money that another conversion would cost on more doctors and more equipment.!!!!! Norwich doesn't need more restaurant s it needs a better health service!

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    Claire Brooks

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • The castle mall is like a ghost town up there. Any effort at change should be supported. The drop in centre can be anywhere in the city centre.

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    Parsnip

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

  • Now look here you lot Everybody who uses drop in pays £2.(half a pint of beer) 78,000 people would pay to be seen would they not if asked.Rent paid job done,move on.

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    PaulH

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

  • Everyone's acting as if the walk-in centre is being closed down. It's not. It's being offered an alternative site in the same location. It's not moving far - just down a couple of levels. A lot of the equipment can be easily moved, but there are costs involved in refitting the old shop as a surgery, just as there was when they set it up in the current location. Castle Mall is a commercial business, not a charity. They have a vision to improve the footfall by including restaurants rather than just fast-food, which will allow more money to be reinvested in improving it's looks. This has got to be seen as a good thing, surely? Given that there are empty units they can move the walk-in centre to, both within Castle Mall and elsewhere in the city, it's not like there's no choice but to shut it down.

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    So_Many_Haters!

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

  • I ask yet again where is the necessary leadership necessary to save our NHS from the city's 2 MPs ? Only yesterday a report on A&E found that 25 % of patients attending were there because they could not get a GPs appointment.If the Walk-In facility in the city centre went,there can only be pressure exerted on already stretched A&E and GP services but where are our MPs?

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    Peter Watson

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

  • considering that the mall is a shopping centre yes i would go there to eat in a restaraunt .........its a business at the end of the day which needs to expand and fill empty shops or would you rather it keeps looking like an eyesore on level 4 ? i expect the answer will be yes !!!!

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    flax

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

  • Could anyone take eating in the Castle mall seriously? the city is full of restaurants, lots of them are not in the mall, why would you bother?, I would go to the mall for a blood test, not a culinary experience.

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    mr mayhem

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

  • Timberhill is chronically short of eating places so the walk-in should move! Need more betting shops in the city centre too... ;)

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    marty r

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

  • Here we go again !

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    Albert Cooper

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

  • I have said it many times before but will say it again - this has been some of the most abysmal forward planning by the NHS. They have always known this date was coming but have just lazily assumed the lease would be renewed. They were told nearly two years ago that the site was going to be used for alternative projects and still the NHS did nothing. Meanwhile there have been chances to redevelop alternative sites in the city centre, such as the former Vindis Group Bentley dealership on Duke Street, the former QD store on St Stephens, the former Jessops store in Chapelfields, the empty former Norwich Union office block on Rose Lane to name but a few plus the EDP has been canvassing for ideas of what to put on the site of the Mecca Theatre being demolished on All Saints Green. So why all the stalling and procrastinating?

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    Lucioperca

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

  • The alternative site (the old George store?) is a lot bigger than the current location, and is more visible. I appreciate that there are costs involved in the move, but at least it would keep the walk-in clinic in the city centre, which is often where people need advice and help.

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    So_Many_Haters!

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

  • Those who oppose the move are still ignoring the basic fact. The site was leased for a fixed term! In the real (business) world, anyone who commits to spending a lot of money on a fixed term lease property would not be in business very long. And it is tax payers money they are wasting. There are lots of parts of the NHS which are excellent but unfortunately the administrators too often do not fall into this category.

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    andy

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

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