REVIEW OF ANNUAL ASSEMBLY (MCC ELEMENT) 23 MAY 2022
Last on the agenda, but by no means least, the Mayfield Community and Health Centre project was hotly debated at the Annual Parish Assembly ‘open forum’ for residents’ on the 23rd May in Five Ashes. It would be fair to say that whether ‘for’ or ‘against’ the project, the subject is a matter that we as a community care deeply about.
Deveda Redman, Chairman of Mayfield & Five Ashes Parish Council, fielded questions from the public with a review provided by Chairman of the Mayfield Community Centre Committee (MCC), James Lench. Wealden District Councillor for Mayfield and Five Ashes, Brian Redman, and Wealden County councillors, Rupert Simmons and Bob Standley were present. The majority of the approximate 230 attendees were clearly in favour of the project, however, what is apparent from the outcome of this meeting, and subsequent discussions on the village facebook site, is that the community requires greater clarity especially where rumours are circulating which are not fact-based.
To summarise: The project is a joint venture between the Parish Council (PC) and WDC resulting from the need for both a new village hall in Mayfield and GP premises. It was made clear that the community hall is being funded by the Parish Council (PC) and WDC is funding the health care element. The WDC representatives confirmed that the funding arrangement between them is in place. In turn, the health centre will be leased to the GPs. The lease has yet to be finalised but is broadly agreed between the WDC as landlord and the GP practice as tenant. Solicitors have been engaged and are working on the Heads of Terms for the leases with WDC. There has been a valuation from the District Valuer on which the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will liaise upon with WDC for sign off by NHS England
Andrew Cornell, Practice Manager, Woodhill Surgery, who was in attendance with others from the practice, confirmed that no other site is under consideration. He reiterated that should development on Court Meadow not proceed, the future of the practice within the village is under jeopardy as the current building is not fit-for-purpose. If inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) there is a possibility of enforced closure, underlining urgency. He said: ‘The patients of the practice should never have had to be treated as they are since the pandemic, with the elderly being forced to wait outside for appointments. The toilet has to be shared with the patients and there is no kitchen for staff or the doctors’.
Some residents want a new surgery but not at Court Meadow. They argued that they should find their own land and build or buy premises elsewhere. The status quo of how GP premises are now funded has changed as NHS England, CCG and central government no longer provide capital funding for premises. Andrew Cornell added: ‘GP’s do not get a mortgage to purchase land, build or buy a surgery anymore. They are only able to rent a surgery and the practice will never be in a position to do otherwise. NHS England has provided a ‘Letter of Comfort’ to WDC for a surgery lease of 25 years. The new surgery will be able to offer additional services not currently available such as maternity and antenatal care’.
A minority of Councillors and residents objected to the project on the grounds that there should be no commercial activity at Court Meadow, assumed to be under Fields in Trust, which is a registered charity to protect green spaces. Others argued that activities have been going on for years which have not been raised as an issue. Examples were: Mayfield Pre-school is a business as is the commercial hire and use of the Memorial Hall, the commercial use of Court Meadow car park, the annual bonfire festival fair in Court Meadow and weekly NatWest mobile banking service. WDC’s response was that there is an anticipated return of 3% which will be reinvested in their community fund for the benefit of all its residents.
The meeting was also informed that there is a GP surgery built on King George V (KGV) recreation ground at Groombridge, so there is a precedent.
One claimant said that the PC has a signed ‘Deed of Dedication’ for Court Meadow being a King George V playing field under FIT protection. The meeting was informed that no such deed has been received from FIT despite it being requested on several occasions. It is believed that the dedication process was commenced but never finalised due to the Second World War. If it is found that Court Meadow is formerly a FIT then WDC will write to them in support of the project and outline the social benefit to residents and request them to waive their rights.
In July 2020 an agreement in principle was reached with Fields in Trust but due to the local ‘Save Court Meadow’campaign putting pressure on them to change their minds, we are addressing FIT’s concerns. It should be noted that the project, as outlined at the November 2021 public information event and PC website, does not involve building on the recreational area of Court Meadow.
There were objections to five Parish Councillors opposing the project[JT1] remaining on the PC with one resident saying ‘Councillors should abide by their Code of Conduct and support the majority vote of the consultation responses in 2019 or resign’. Others claimed that Councillors are entitled to their own opinions.
The planning application documents were approved by a majority vote at the June 2022 PC meeting in readiness for submission to Wealden District Council’s planning department. The anticipated turnaround is 12 weeks. An invitation to tender exercise is scheduled for the Autumn.
Budget: information on the latest estimated costs was requested: The overall project is likely to cost a little over £4M, which is higher than originally anticipated due to the escalating building costs currently being experienced, but it is still affordable. A value engineering exercise is underway to ensure the above cost does not escalate further. Final costs will only be known when we enter into a contract with the developer.
The Parish Council remains committed to the project and the MCC committee is working tirelessly to make it happen as soon as possible. A tremendous response has already been received and residents are requested to continue demonstrating their support to firstname.lastname@example.org, and to whom any queries about the project should also be addressed.
For further information on the project and the latest updates, please visit the village website at www.mayfieldfiveashes.org.uk. Updates are also posted on the village Facebook site, which is hosting residents’ discussions, which also show a great deal of project support.