Many of you have been following developments on The Polden Project – a community-led initiative for a Community Hub at the old Co-op site in Woolavington (in preference to commercial use as a pharmacy). This interest was in evidence at the large turnout at the the recent Parish Council Annual Parish Meeting (APM) where our MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger, and senior representatives of the District Council were also in attendance.
Following the meeting, Allison Griffin (Sedgemoor District Council Chief Executive) requested that the financial section of the recently submitted Business Plan be reworked and incorporated in a revised Plan. It was clear at the meeting that the issue of zero rent was an emotive one with Sedgemoor and needed to be addressed. Thus, the financials were updated with the invaluable expertise of Paul Monaghan and incorporated into a revised plan which was submitted last Friday, as requested. This demonstrates that the Project would show a healthy surplus despite paying a market rent – which is clearly stated as an issue for future negotiation.
With the submission, the Project Team requested a follow-up meeting to discuss any outstanding concerns with the Plan itself and the Project as a whole.
Late on Tuesday, a letter was received from Sedgemoor by e-mail. Basically, the intention is to lease the premises to Magna Health for use as a pharmacy. The rest of the letter covers the same ground that was unsatisfactorily addressed by Sedgemoor representatives at the APM.
This decision means that all patients within one mile (as the crow flies) of the pharmacy will no longer be able to collect their prescriptions from the medical practice in either Edington or Woolavington - due to NHS England rules for a “controlled area” they will need to use a pharmacy for prescriptions (although not necessarily the new one in Woolavington). This rule will potentially affect about 95% of Cossington residents. A “gradualisation” (transition) period of six months has currently been set by NHS England before these rules come into force although this is subject to an appeal by the community to get it extended (we cannot appeal against the decision for the pharmacy).
This is disappointing – but not totally unexpected. Some suspected there was always a danger that, with the challenging (even unrealistic) deadlines given for responses, the District Council may have just been going through the motions of listening to the community, expecting us to give up or fail. Whilst this may or may not have been the case, rejection through failing to meet the imposed deadlines wasn’t a tenable option. However, what is most disappointing is that our request for a face-to-face meeting prior to the decision being finalised was ignored.
The amount of commitment, hard work and enthusiasm generated by the Project in such a short space of time has been impressive - and what started just a few weeks ago as a pipe dream rapidly became a practical proposition to bring lasting value to the community. A lot of credit is due to all those involved – but particularly the local Patients Participation Group who provided the inspiration and drive to get the ideas moving.
Although the outcome is disappointing, it would be a great shame if all the interest, hard work and enthusiasm generated to date goes to waste. Other possible ways forward may be considered over the coming weeks and months when the initial disappointment and anger has died down. However, it is difficult to see the suggestions in Sedgemoor’s letter as being desirable or workable. We will be responding to the Sedgemoor letter shortly as there are many important questions that remain unanswered.
We will, of course, keep you posted.
NOTE: The Business Plan download on the home page has been removed for reasons of confientiality