Doctors’ surgery in Bury St Edmunds opens pharmacy pending appeal decision

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A doctors’ surgery refused planning permission for a pharmacy after residents raised drugs and crime fears, says it had no choice but to open it anyway pending a planning appeal.

The Swan Surgery in Northgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, was refused permission in December over fears a needle exchange would lead to ‘undesirables’ in the area.

But the surgery said it already treats more than 10 addicts, had no immediate plans for a needle exchange, and that if it ever did it would be limited to 15 people and be open to public consultation.

A petition of 336 people, and 42 letters from residents and businesses claimed it would attract drug addicts to the area, and lead to crime and drug equipment in the street.

There was also a petition in support of the move with 201 signatures while seven residents and businesses wrote backing the move.

One patient at the surgery, Anne Langan said the extended opening hours would be ‘extremely useful – particularly at Bank Holidays and in the event of emergencies,’ said a report to St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s development control committee in December.

But Vivian Kemp from Barwell Road said the nearby dance school would be ‘seriously affected’ and David Cole said it would bring ‘undesirables to the area to trade drugs for methadone’.

Councillors went against their own officer’s recommendations in refusing the scheme.

Now the surgery has opened the pharmacy and appealed to a planning inspector to review the decision.

“Naturally the surgery was disappointed with the opinion of the councilors,” said Rachel Helliar, Practice Manager.

She said the surgery contacted the council’s planning permission asking technical and legal reasons why the application was refused – but that the council failed to issue this in time.

The appeal before a planning inspector is due to be heard in June.

“The whole process has been so protracted that we were required to open the pharmacy pending the appeals or our NHS permission to do so would have lapsed for ever,” said Ms Helliar.

“We are confident the appeal will approve the proposal.”