Relocation proposals submitted for NHS walk-in centre to move to Norwich office block

Timber Hill Health Centre in Castle Mall.

Timber Hill Health Centre in Castle Mall. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2010

A popular NHS walk-in centre has moved a step closer to leaving a Norwich shopping centre after a planning application was submitted to relocate to an office block.

Rouen House which could be the new home for the NHS walk in centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Rouen House which could be the new home for the NHS walk in centre. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

The future of Timber Hill Health Centre was thrown into doubt earlier this year after the owners of Castle Mall unveiled proposals to create a restaurant quarter on level four of the site and move the GP surgery and walk-in centre to an empty shop unit on level two.

However, Norwich Practices Ltd (NPL) has signalled its intentions of relocating elsewhere after putting in plans to move to nearby Rouen House, in Rouen Road.

A Norwich MP welcomed the news, despite the proposed centre being in a less central location in the city. However, question marks have been raised about parking provision for the proposed new site.

Norwich City Councillors approved an application by InfraRed, owner of Castle Mall, in July for the restaurant development and plans to move the health centre to level two of the shopping centre. However, officials from NPL had rejected the move because of relocation and refit costs.

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City councillors are set to discuss a new proposal for the health centre later this autumn after NPL submitted plans to change the lower ground and ground floors of Rouen House from offices to a medical clinic.

Steve Bloomfield, business manager for NPL, said: 'To keep one of the options open, planning permission has been sought to one of the options for the future of the walk-in centre, but currently no decision has been made by NHS England and this is not expected for some days.'

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The news comes after hundreds of people signed a Norwich Evening News petition calling on NHS England to retain a walk-in centre in the heart of Norwich.

Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, said the proposed new site for the GP practice and walk-in centre appeared acceptable.

'My priority for people on the north side of the city has always been to keep a city centre location for the walk-in centre and this location appears reasonable.'

'I would of course want to see the details, including the parking and bus access. The main thing is that it needs to be resolved quickly because it is not acceptable to leave this up in the air and I welcome this as a solution if it can move quickly.

'I will continue to work closely with the health service and Norwich GP practices to make sure we have enough provision in Norwich,' she said.

The £2m Timber Hill Health Centre opened at Castle Mall in 2009 and has more than 8,000 registered patients and receives more than 75,000 walk-in visits a year.

Plans submitted by KLH Architects said the change of use application covered 628sqm of office space currently used by First Eastern Counties bus company.

The application also states that the clinic would be staffed by 22 full-time and 52 part-time workers and would be open from 7am to 9pm seven days a week.

A public consultation period on the plans will run until October 8 and the scheme is set to go before a Norwich City Council planning committee in November.

Bill Monaghan, secretary of the King Street Neighbours community group, said the new location would suit registered patients, but would not be as convenient for walk-in visitors.

'It is a little bit less central for the walk-in centre and if it happens, local people here will be happy enough with it. It is not well known and there is a big parking question and it is a very busy part of the road,' he said.

A spokesman from NHS England said: 'We are aware of a planning application which has been made by NPL with respect to the relocation of the Timber Hill Health Centre. Any change of premises would require approval from NHS England in East Anglia, however, no final decisions have yet been made. NHS England in East Anglia continues to work with NPL to ensure that the public in East Anglia continues to have access to high quality primary care services.'

A spokesman for First Eastern Counties, added: 'Since the change of management at Norwich bus station in September 2013, we have been working to secure city centre premises. We currently have a number of staff based at Rouen House.

'We intend to have one city centre base for all First Eastern Counties head office and operational staff. As soon as the new site is secured, we will inform passengers of the new arrangements.'

Rouen House is managed by Nwes and provides 'easy-in, easy-out' tenancy terms and 24/7 access, claims its website.

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