Suitability of Downs site for Seaford health hub questioned again

The fate of the controversial Seaford health hub project is set to be decided at a council meeting in late March.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 9:31 am
The green buildings are the proposed additions to the Downs Leisure Centre site

The previous Tory administration at Lewes District Council put forward development proposals for the Downs Leisure Centre site to include a health hub, retail, residential flats and improvements to the existing leisure facilities.

This would mean new purpose-built homes for the two GP practices currently located in the town centre: Seaford Medical Centre and Seaford Old School Surgery.

However the development has sparked strong opposition in Seaford due to the loss of green space, impact on the viability of the town centre, a perceived reduction in the accessibility of health services and an increase in traffic.

Downs Leisure Centre Seaford

Just weeks before a cooperative alliance administration took over the council, a panel was set up by the scrutiny committee to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the current scheme.

Its report and recommendations were discussed yesterday (Thursday February 6).

Several members of the scrutiny committee felt the recommendations read too negatively and the first was altered slightly to recommend to the council at this time not to progress the proposed development on the Downs Site for a health hub unless and until a number of conditions had been satisfied.

One of these was for the NHS to establish there was no practical prospect of new GP premises being provided in Seaford through the redevelopment of the Seaford Medical Practice’s existing Dane Road site together with the Richmond Road car park.

Another asked for residential and retail elements to be excluded, and the third felt the financial model for this revised design had to clearly demonstrate that the council would make a suitable financial return commensurate with the risks involved.

After the meeting, Zoe Nicholson, Green leader of Lewes District Council, confirmed the recommendations would be considered by cabinet on March 26.

She said: “Whatever the outcome of the cabinet meeting in March, I remain committed to working with the Clinical Commissioning Group and GPs to find a solution that will deliver high quality primary care services in Seaford within surgeries that are fit for purpose.

“We will meet together on February 12 to further consider the scrutiny committee decision and agree our next steps.”

Although members of the scrutiny committee all commended the work of the panel, several were evidently split on degrees of support for the scheme on the Downs Leisure Centre site.

Roy Burman (Con, Newick) said: “We are not here to prevent things, we are here to implement things for our community.”

He suggested they would not have a detailed financial model until they moved forward with a full planning proposal, while on the objections due to the loss of green space, he added: “There’s talk about losing recreation space. The amount that is being lost is not a lot.”

But Christine Brett (LDem, Seaford South) said she was surprised at Cllr Burman’s description of only a pocket handkerchief’s worth of land being lost, adding: “Seaford is incredibly short of recreation greens.”

Adrian Ross (Green, Lewes Bridge) said there was clear evidence that a health hub was needed in Seaford, but the particular benefits of locating it on the Downs site were less clear.

He added: “I do not think we should start redeveloping bits of green space in Seaford until we have thoroughly investigated the possibility of building a health hub in and around the Dane Road site.”