Future of Marlborough's soon-to-be-redundant police station is still shrouded in uncertaintyWiltshire Police’s planning application for change of use for The Corner House in the George Lane car park has been approved by Wiltshire Council.
They anticipate they will be able to relocate the staff and officers currently working at police station this Spring and then begin using The Corner House as their new 'touchdown point'.
Angus Macpherson is Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon: “As far as the existing police station is concerned, when we move into The Corner House and colleagues have been re-located, I will then consider what options there are for the future of the site, one of which will be to offer it for sale."
“I will continue to engage with local partners to discuss a range of possible uses for the site and, where possible, I will aim to support local plans. I have been liaising with Marlborough Town Council to explore how I can support the Marlborough Community Area Neighbourhood plan."
He is, however, legally obliged to get the best possible price for assets like the Marlborough police station to support local policing. Marlborough.news understands that talks about the future of this prime site in George Lane are ongoing.
But might Marlborough be about to miss a once in a generation opportunity to give the town and its surrounding villages a proper NHS primary care centre right at the heart of the town?
In February 2016, Wiltshire Council planners reported to their Strategic Planning Committee about the large housing development proposed for Crown Estate west of Salisbury Road. They pointed out the problems facing NHS primary care provision in Marlborough:
"NHS England has confirmed that there is only one GP Practice serving Marlborough which has no further building capacity to take on the number of people who would be accommodated within the new development."
So a 'contribution' would be needed from the developer "to support the Practice in extending and increasing its capacity". The sum they calculated will give the Practice a lump sum of £88,680 - not much in terms of bricks, mortar and equipment.
Since then nothing has happened. Well, not quite nothing. The state of primary care in the town and the lack of space at the George Lane surgery was publicly reinforced in very dramatic fashion when the Practice needed more space and made the NHS dental service leave the Surgery. There is as yet no sign of an NHS dental service returning to the town.
Did that prompt action from the NHS authorities on the space issue at the Marlborough Practice?
Also on the 'not quite nothing' scale, new homes have been springing up and more have been granted planning permission all over the town.
The Redrow development west of Salisbury Road is for 167 homes. Adding to those will be the 39 homes due to be built on the former amenity land off Rabley Wood View, the 13 homes at Cherry Orchard House, the nine flats at Moffatt House (a conversion from social housing), the proposed 20 or so homes at St Peter's School and a number of new 'fill-in' houses as well.
To them we must add the new older peoples' homes and apartments - with their obviously greater call on GP services: Savernake View care home, the retirement apartments at the Old Yard in the London Road and Canning Place at Granham Hill. The impact on health services of the College's new boarding house is not clear.
On top of the expanding number of NHS patients in the town, there is to be new emphasis on expanding community and GP services. GPs will have to provide more diagnostic and treatment services.
This is part of the government's Long Term Plan for the NHS - supported by plus/minus £20billion additional funding. Here is the NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens speaking on BBC Radio: "For the first time in the history of the NHS, we're saying we need community services and GP services to grow faster."
(That statement might upset Wiltshire's former Primary Care Trust and the current Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which have both put significant emphasis and a great deal of hard work into the county's community health services. Perhaps 'faster' was the Chief Executive's key word.)
So how could Marlborough's NHS Primary care be developed - and found a new home?
The Marlborough Surgery is owned by the GP partners who are now part of the Kennet and Avon Medical Partnership (KAMP). Having taken over the dentists' space, they will be paid by the Wiltshire CCG £99,500 a year for the use of the surgery building by KAMP - an increase due the extra dentists' space of £16,700.
The CCG is responsible for primary care (a responsibility devolved to them by NHS England.) But it appears that an application to move to any new site has to come in the first place from the partners. Which puts NHS 'commissioning' in a less than proactive position.
Marlborough.news understands that about two years ago the partners did look at the police station and thought conversion would be too expensive.
The balance amongst the various arms of the NHS is changing - making necessary improvements a trickier issue. Any funding to buy and convert the police station would have to come from central government.
Despite the frequent references to the Treasury's lack of a 'money tree', there is money in the system. The CCG has just got nearly £16million from central government to help establish the Trowbridge Integrated Care Centre - a project close to the hearts of Wiltshire Council leaders.
That development will include improved space and facilities for Trowbridge's GPs.
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