Community councils have added their voice to growing concerns that housing development is outstripping vital services across West Lothian.
A report by the Health and Social Care Partnership recently revealed that almost 12,000 homes are planned to be built by 2027, mostly in the eastern end of the county, with another 8000 planned beyond that date.
And as a planning application for Armadale comes back to the Development Management Committee next week, local councillor Stuart Borrowman has demanded a more detailed answer on how increasing the number of homes planned for the town would affect GP services and local road infrastructure.
In addition, the Joint Forum of Community Councils said there were “grave concerns” about the impact on GP services.
The forum said: “This will bring huge demand and pressure on GP practices in the area, which will exceed their existing resources.
“This comes at a time when the health board has halted non-urgent elective surgery at St John’s Hospital due to staff shortages and high rates of Covid-19 infection.
“This will effectively halt any attempt to catch up on waiting lists for operations, which will affect those in every community.”
It added: “We are concerned that the health and care services in West Lothian cannot cope at the moment and the future looks even worse if nothing is done to address this.
“This situation is drastic and consequently we are suggesting that community councils put this on the agenda for their next meeting, to discuss the issues and raise their concerns with their local councillors, MSPs and MPs.”
Councillor Borrowman said that problems have existed for years in Armadale.
Studies predict the county’s population will exceed 190,000 by 2025, from around 160,000 at the moment.
This will mean big increases in predicted registration at medical practices – the biggest at 24% at East Calder, but an average in the east of 11%.
In the western end of the county the broader increase is expected to be around 9%, but again there are hotspots at West Calder and Blackridge of 13% rises – all by 2027.
Councillor Borrowman said: “My local concerns focus on Armadale which has a GP practice designed for 10,000 and a patient roll of 13,000, and Blackridge, which has a roll of 4000 in a village of 2000 where the practice has given notice to quit in March.
“I’m aware there are problems in other places and West Lothian seems to be a jigsaw where the pieces can’t fit.
“I was dismayed to discover that the health authorities began a planning exercise just last week as the issues in Armadale have been around for the best part of a decade.”
He added: “This needs leadership from the health authorities that seems not to have been evident hitherto.”
Councillor Borrowman is also concerned that NHS Lothian did not respond to the Armadale housing application when he was told that healthcare provision was a relevant planning issue.
He also called for greater clarity from the council’s roads engineers on the potential effects of building 375 homes in the western end of Armadale on the already choked centre of the town.
By local democracy reporter Stuart Sommerville