Victory as plans for needle exchange rejected at appeal
CAMPAIGNERS are jubilant after a Government-appointed planning inspector upheld Swindon Council’s decision to reject plans for a pharmacy with a needle exchange and extended opening hours in Gorse Hill. Eightlands Ltd, the company behind the plans, went to appeal after the planning committee refused permission in November.
It held a long public campaign for its plans to open a pharmacy in part of Hawthorn Medical Centre, in May Close.
The council said the extra activity at the premises would cause noise and general disturbance for nearby residents, and the lack of parking would lead to vehicles being parked in the road. Residents and Gorse Hill Neighbourhood Watch also raised concerns that the needle exchange would increase crime by attracting drug addicts and prostitutes.
The appellant refuted the noise and disturbance concerns, claiming that a pharmacy could not be considered a noisy use, and that any increase in activity would be limited to a few patients visiting in the evenings.
It also said the council had not demonstrated that insufficient car parking would be available or that on-street parking would prejudice highway safety.
Planning inspector, David Morgan said there would be sufficient car parking at the centre and surrounding streets, but dismissed the appeal on the grounds that it would “cause unacceptable material harm to the living conditions of adjacent residential occupiers”.
He concluded: “I have found that the proposed pharmacy use would bring benefits to the local and wider community. I have also found that its provision would not result in material harm to the free flow of traffic or the safety of highway users.
“Both factors weigh in favour of the proposal. However, both benefits would be outweighed by the material harm to the living conditions of local residents that would result, and this determines the appeal should fail.”
Resident Maurice Small, of Poulton Street, who was involved in the campaign, said the result showed what was possible when residents work together.
He said: “I’m glad. When you get the people together, they can do something but if they sit down and moan they won’t get anything done.”
Fellow campaigner Mike Iles, who lives in Cricklade Road near the medical centre, said: “It allays some of the anxieties we had in regards to parking around there and the needle disposal.
“Just generally it’s better for the wellbeing of elderly and disabled people around there because they wouldn’t have that sort of people coming around there.”
Coun Ray Ballman (Lab, Gorse Hill and Pinehurst) said: “We’re pleased with the fact that the inspector upheld the decision. “The residents around that area were concerned about a 100 hours pharmacy so we supported them and we were very pleased with the decision that was made.”
Eightlands Ltd was unavailable for comment yesterday.