A Farnham doctors’ surgery is to leave its home of the past 200-plus years after planning permission was granted for a new surgery and pharmacy in the town centre.
Downing Street Surgery has been based at 4 Downing Street for more than two centuries but hopes to complete its move to Wey Court East on the corner of Union Road and South Street early next year.
A Waverley Borough Council planning committee gave its planned alterations of the office building the green light on Wednesday last week after a whistle-stop debate that lasted just 60 seconds.
Public objector Libby Brayshaw, representing the concerns of neighbours at The Bridge, warned the plans could result in traffic backing up on to South Street.
But her concerns were shot down in seconds as officers confirmed that while planning consent was required for alterations to the building, it was not required to use it as a doctors’ surgery. As such, there could be no objection on the grounds of traffic concerns.
Downing Street Surgery’s “minimal” alterations to Wey Court East include a new entrance canopy facing Union Road, rooftop solar panels and changes to the office building’s existing car park to provide 17 staff-only parking spaces.
There will be no patient drop-off facility at the site, and, like the existing GP surgery at 4 Downing Street, patients will be required to use public car parking facilities when travelling by car.
Residents of neighbouring flats at The Bridge protested that the arrival of a GP surgery and pharmacy at their back door could increase traffic congestion, anti-social parking and noise pollution in the area. They said people would find the temptation to drop off patients in South Street and Union Road “irresistible”.
And neighbours also queried whether the surgery had right of access to two allocated disabled parking bays and an ambulance parking space to the rear of the building – which was home to Ashgate Publishing until 2016.
However, under recent planning changes the former ‘B1’ office use class is now included within ‘Class E’ which includes doctors’ surgeries.
As a result, planning permission is not required to use the building as a doctors’ surgery and Waverley Borough Council officers confirmed: “There can be no objection to any traffic associated with the doctors’ surgery.”
Statutory consultees including Farnham Town Council and Surrey County Council’s highways department raised no objection, and Waverley councillors gave the plans the go-ahead on August 23.
The Downing Street Surgery serves a patient list of around 15,000 people, with its three-storey Grade II-listed home at 4 Downing Street spanning 500 square metres.
Its new premises at Wey Court East will more than double this to around 1,100sqm in line with current NHS guidance, helping to “future proof” the surgery for Farnham’s increasing population and allow more services to be offered.