A TORY and a Ukip councillor have put their political differences aside to call for improved health services in Wickford.
Michael Mowe and David Harrison have joined forces to ask Basildon Council and NHS England to go back to the drawing board over plans to relocate the existing London Road Surgery into the town centre.
The scheme, which was given the green light in July, is part of an ambitious £3.2million regeneration of Wickford.
Mr Mowe, Tory councillor in Wickford North, and Mr Harrison, Ukip councillor for Wickford Park, held a series of crunch talks with NHS England bosses to ask for extra services, including blood testing and ultra-sound scans to come to the town.
They want the new surgery, which will be built on the Wickford Market site, to be transformed into a larger multi-purpose facility, incorporating the two GP practices at Wickford Health Centre.
Mr Harrison is confident it is not too late for a revised application to be drawn up, but admits it all comes down to cash.
He said: “I think we both agree it would be a missed opportunity if something better wasn’t accommodated on the site.
“The meetings with the NHS were very positive, and I’m pleased it looks like it will be putting pressure on Basildon Council. The problem is to do anything else on the site requires more money upfront.
“This is about putting our political differences to one side and saying Wickford deserves more, so let’s makes sure we get it.”
The proposals mean the land in Market Road, where the existing Wickford Health Centre sits, could be sold off to pay towards the revamped project.
Mr Mowe believes the development of 575 houses on the former Runwell Hospital site, in Runwell Road, Wickford, and proposals to build 2,450 homes inWickford by 2013 will stretch the town to breaking point.
He said: “Wickford is really expanding, it’s a town in its own right.
“A lot of the London boroughs have their own drop-in centres, and that is the model we want to look at. People from Wickford are being sent all over the place for treatment at the moment, so it would make sense to have a designated place right here.
“We are not looking to stop the new surgery, but we just want to see if we can look at other options.”
Earlier this year the Echo revealed residents face long waits for doctor appointments because there is just one GP for every 1,767 people in Wickford.
NO CASH FOR REDESIGN, SAYS COUNCIL
Council bosses said they do not have the money to go back to the drawing board for the Wickford market site.
Plans to build the facility on the Market Road site were given the thumbs up by a cross-party planning committee in July.
Despite the NHS being hopeful an improved Wickford surgery could be on the cards, Basildon Council said it did not have the money to spend on redeveloping plans at the market.
A spokesman for Basildon Council said: “Due to the additional funds and timescales required to provide a larger facility for Wickford Health Centre and Applewood Surgery, the council is not in a position to stop and redesign the existing scheme.
“Therefore the current London Road Surgery development, on the present market site, will progress as planned and be delivered within the criteria required by the practice.
“Having said that, the council is certainly willing to meet with NHS England to discuss the potential for a larger scheme on an alternative site.”
Successful meetings have been held between council officers, councillors and Andrew Pike, Essex area director for NHS England, Tom Abell, from NHS Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group and Ian Stidston, Essex director of commissioning at NHS England.
Health bosses said they remain positive an agreement could be made.
A spokesman for NHS England in Essex said: “Discussions are continuing between NHS England, Basildon Council and Wickford GP practices regarding the future development of primary medical services within the town.
“Further information will be available once agreement has been reached on the range of services that will be delivered at any potential new site.”