Fears for GP services dismissed as builders win appeal for extra homes

Scottish Government reporter conceded pressure on health provision was an issue but it would not have an 'unacceptable impact'.

Fears for Armadale’s GP services dismissed as builders win appeal for extra homes in West Lothian iStock

A Scottish Government official has dismissed fears over a town’s healthcare provision saying there is “no clear evidence” 75 extra homes on an estate where 300 are scheduled would impact on GP services.

Armadale councillor Stuart Borrowman had argued for rejection of the proposals, pointing out that a GP practice in the town designed for 10,000 patients now faced demands from 13,000. He was backed by West Lothian Council’s Development Management Committee. 

Division of Planning and Environmental Appeals (DPEA) reporter Rob Huntley conceded that the pressure on health services is an issue.

In his report, he said: “NHS Lothian’s conclusion, that any house building within the practice boundary will impact the local population and the ability to access general practice provision, is consistent with this, but is expressed generically in relation to residential development in Armadale generally, rather than directly relating to the appeal proposal.”

But he added that there was: “No clear evidence to lead me to conclude that an increase in the number of dwellings … from 300 to potentially 375, would give rise to an unacceptable impact. Nor, in the absence of any identification of a need for enhanced health service provision in the local development plan.”

Writing on social media, councillor Borrowman said the decision was “not helpful”.

He added: “With my postbag bulging with complaints about access to GP services in Armadale and the GP practice staff stretched beyond capacity, this is not a helpful outcome.”

On Monday, he said: “This is a disappointing – if not wholly surprising – decision by the Scottish Government reporter.

“To be credible, the planning system must try to balance development with infrastructure and the reporter’s conclusion that increasing the capacity of a development by a quarter will ‘not lead to an unacceptable impact’ runs counter to the pressures on local health care provision in Armadale and the experience of both residents and hard-pressed GPs and other health staff.

“This looks like a case of not finding evidence of an issue by not looking for it.”

The reporter also said that councillor Borrowman’s concerns about an increase in traffic from the western side of the town, where the Avant site is, could be met by the council’s own suggestion of tweaking the signalling sequences on lights at Armadale Cross.

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