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EXPANSION: Taunton “white elephant” update

EXPANSION: Taunton “white elephant” update

Image: LDRS

The range of healthcare facilities being provided at a former Taunton “white elephant” could soon be expanded if new plans are approved.

The Zenith Fire Control Centre on Blackbrook Park Avenue was completed in 2007 but has never been used, costing taxpayers millions of pounds to maintain.

Somerset West and Taunton Council granted permission in September 2020 to turn the building into a diagnostic and innovation centre, with construction getting under way in December.

Rutherford Infrastructures – which will run the facility in partnership with the NHS – has now applied to convert the first floor offices into additional clinic space.

The new centre will relieve pressure off Musgrove Park Hospital, with patients being able to visit the other side of Taunton for diagnostic tests, freeing up the existing wards for other uses.

A spokesman for the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (which runs the hospital) stated in June 2020: “In the last four years, we have experienced a continuing increase in the number of patients requiring diagnostic tests as part of their referral pathway.

“In addition, the trust is located on a landlocked site which means there are limited options for on-site expansion.

“The delivery of a new diagnostic centre and imaging service will be part of a longer-term, system-wide approach to provide a sustainable solution for the population of Somerset, delivering improved value for money, patient experience and national access standards.”

The ground floor of the building will house the main diagnostic centre, including two MRI scanners, two CT scanners, an X-ray facility and an ultrasound facility.

Under the new proposals, the first floor will accommodate additional clinics, with the second floor still being used for administration.

A spokesman for Ryder Architecture (representing the applicant) said additional car parking would be provided on site in conjunction with the new first floor facility.

The spokesman said: “Plans were granted in September 2020 for a change of use of the fire control centre for a diagnostics centre on the ground floor, with office accommodation on the first and second floors.

“The current proposal requires a change of use of the first floor, for clinical purposes as required for the diagnostic centre (and in accordance with NHS requirements) and an increase in car parking spaces from 88 to 116.

“This will allow this building to be used to maximum advantage, supporting the local community and increasing the provision of specialised medical professionals into the region while contributing to an overall strategy to cope with an increasing and urgent clinical need.”

The council is expected to make a decision on the new first floor plans by September 10, with the new centre expected to open its doors to the public by the end of September, according to a council report.

 

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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