WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

Patients see off luxury flats threat to GP surgery

Church's controversial housing scheme near home of former PM is withdrawn

28 February, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Former prime minister Tony Blair lives close to the surgery

AN NHS surgery has been saved from closure after Christian church bosses withdrew plans for a luxury housing development.

A patient power campaign has “won the day” against a planning application to convert the Connaught Square Practice, Bayswater, into ­luxury flats.

The Church Commissioners have withdrawn planning applications for both Connaught Square and Sussex Gardens in Paddington where they had proposed to relocate the surgery.

Patient Jennifer Sheridan said the campaign had been “greatly heartened” by the decision, adding: “The possible closure of the surgery caused considerable anxiety among its 8,000 patients. We now hope that the practice will be able to focus on developing and enhancing its excellent services, for the benefit of the community it has served so well and for so long.”

It is not clear whether the three-time Labour prime minister Tony Blair, who lives in Connaught Square, was one of the 8,000 patients at his local surgery. The Extra contacted Mr Blair through his Tony Blair Institute about the victory, backed by Westminster Labour group, but was told “it would not be possible to provide a comment”.

Dozens of objections had flooded into the council. They included:

• “Please don’t allow the Church Commissioners to close down the only NHS GP surgery in the area. We can’t survive as a community on luxury flats alone. We have to have a balance of residential and services, and this is one of the most important services there is.”

• “I think it is unfair to turn this practice into a residential home. You may re-home one wealthy family… but thousands of families will be left with­out health care and have to find elsewhere to go.”

• “I strongly object to this application. Con­naught Square Practice has wonderful doctors with high professionalism and serves hundreds of people in this area. [The council] closed two GP surgeries in the past few years, one in Praed Street and one in London Street, the closure of another GP practice will put a heavy burden on the remaining surgeries in the area.”

Labour councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, who has been supporting the residents’ campaign, said: “This is very good news and a victory for common sense. Residents were rightly angry that their very good doctors’ surgery was being taken from them. It is vital that local health services in central London are protected from further attack.”

The Church Commissioners for England – which owns a large area of land around Bayswater including in Connaught Square – told the Extra on February 13 the scheme was going ahead, but on Friday released the following statement:

“The Church Commissioners has withdrawn its application to convert 41 Connaught Square medical practice to its original use as a private residential dwelling and the linked application for a new National Health Service medical centre at 1 Sussex Gardens. We remain committed to delivering an improved NHS medical service which offers steps-free access, more consulting rooms and reduced waiting times within the Hyde Park Estate in due course.”

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