Plans to transform medical centre into Gorleston homes

Gorleston. Picture: James Bass

Gorleston. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

A redundant medical centre in Gorleston specialising in helping North Sea energy workers is asking planners for permission to convert into homes.

Oakville Homes, based at Burgh Castle, wants to return the Victorian building at 3 Lowestoft Road to residential use after owners national health specialist Abermed sold it off following a nationwide review of its business last year.

However, another company which has bought the business - but not the premises - is promising to relaunch the service serving several thousands of individuals and businesses and is running a temporary clinic while it searches for a home.

The proposal at Lowestoft Road involves the conversion of the former North Sea Medical Centre to form four self-contained dwellings, including a four-bedroom unit over three floors and three two-bedroom homes.

With no extensions to the property and only internal changes the alterations are said to have a minimal impact on the original building, which lies within a conservation area.

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A spokesman for Aberdeen-based Abermed said the clinic had shut in December along with the Edinburgh branch while ownership of some others within the nationwide network had been transferred to the management.

She was not able to give information about job losses.

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However Abermed remains a partner organisation working with Wrightway Health which bought the business and is operating a temporary clinic at Central Surgery until it completes on a new site.

A spokemsan for Wrightway said negotiations were underway over a location and that the service would be 'bigger and better than ever.'

The North Sea Medical Centre developed its expertise in work-related health issues in the early 1960s when oil and gas exploration was in its infancy.

It was sold to Abermed in 2004 by a group of four doctors, changing its name to Abermed in 2007. Three years later Abermed was itself bought by one of its clients the American SOS group - a deal tipped to create new jobs and add to the 22 already working at Gorleston.

At the time 70pc of the centre's client base was said to be made up of oil and gas industry clients.

Services on offer included medical examinations, drug and alcohol testing, diving medical advice and offshore medical supervision.

Its travel clinic offered all internationally recognised vaccinations, included yellow fever.

It also ran the statutory required offshore medic course from its training decision.

Application papers submitted to the borough council describe it as a large Victorian manse, or clergy house, which at one time was taken over by the health authority and used as a medical centre allied to Central Surgery.

The papers state: 'It is suggested that the use of the building from surgery to private dwellings will be a lesser use of the site in terms of visitors and vehicles. There is no on-site provision for vehicle parking as the site has been fully developed.'

The building became part of a conservation area in April 2009, when the conservation area covering the High Street was extended south to include St Peter's Catholic Church.

The planning department is assessing the application, which is under public consultation until May 9.

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