Sheltered housing plan re-ignites concerns about pressure on Diss Health Centre

Diss Health Centre ANL-150204-084348009
Diss Health Centre ANL-150204-084348009

A proposed sheltered housing development aimed at retirement age residents of the Diss area has ignited fresh concerns about the rising pressure and lack of progress at the town’s health centre.

Retirement housebuilder McCarthy & Stone revealed this week an early plan to construct a sheltered accommodation unit comprised of 35 flats, in addition to a further five detached houses, on land behind Diss Health Centre, between Mount Street and Shelfanger Road.

The proposal, which has not yet been put forward as a formal planning application, also indicated any land that is not developed on at the site, currently owned by local farmer Benny Gaze, could be gifted back for nonspecific community use.

But at a Diss Town Council Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday, councillors expressed concerns about the restrictions a development of this kind could have on the ongoing efforts to expand the services offered at Diss Health Centre, and whether the town’s current infrastructure could support such a significant increase in the local population.

Councillor Mike Bardwell said: “Until this town gets a proper expansion to the doctor’s surgery, I cannot support that amount of housing.

“The facilities within the town are not matching the demand. We just don’t need another 100 people living here.”

Attempts to improve the health centre have stalled due to a lack of available funding from NHS England, after planning permission was granted for an extension more than a year ago.

During the council meeting, a representative from McCarthy & Stone said the company had identified a significant 70-80 year old demographic within the local area in need of more suitable accommodation.

“What we think would work particularly well here is a retirement scheme,” they said this week.

“We certainly feel there is a lot of demand, and we feel it has got good planning prospects.”

“We are always looking for land that is close to the town centre, which in a market town is not always easy. Being within walking distance of the town centre is a priority for a lot of our future residents.”

The type of accommodation outlined in the proposal is described as private-sale, long-lease apartments, each with either one or two beds and open plan living space to cater to the needs of elderly people.

McCarthy & Stone have also claimed they are looking to draw in residents who live nearby and who already use the community facilities in Diss, and stated the presence of sheltered housing could even free up family homes back into the market.

Councillor Simon Olander, chairman of the Planning Committee, concluded: “I think the major concern, as with all developments in Diss, even anything miles away from the Health Centre, is the provision of healthcare.

“Unfortunately, there is very little coming back with regard to infrastructure.”