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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Sunderland dental practice expansion plan refused at appeal by Government-appointed planning inspector

A city dental practice’s bid to improve facilities for staff and patients has been refused at appeal by a Government-appointed planning inspector.

Fulwell Dental Practice, at 162 Fulwell Road, previously sought permission from Sunderland City Council to build a two-storey extension into a rear yard area to create new facilities.

This included a ground floor garage space, a small porch projecting into the space to the side of the extension and an additional office, meeting room and store on the first floor.

However the city council’s planning department refused the application on February 15, 2023, after raising concerns about the proposed design and wider parking and highway safety fears.

This included concerns about the “attraction of vehicles to the site without adequate off-street parking, leading to traffic congestion within the vicinity of the site, to the detriment of highway and pedestrian safety”.

Applicant Lynwood Healthcare Ltd later lodged an appeal with the national Planning Inspectorate, with a planning inspector appointed by the Secretary of State to rule on the matter.

Those behind the appeal previously said the development aimed to “improve the quality of dental care” and to “help an existing, local business provide a better and more efficient service to its patients”.

It was noted that the practice has “no staff office or staff room/area” along with “limited storage and no consultation rooms for patients”.

The appellant statement added: “If we can not offer these to attract and maintain staff we have and will seriously have to consider dropping our NHS services to reduce our capacity and the stresses the business faces”.

After considering the plans for the dental practice, a national planning inspector dismissed the appeal.

While concluding that the development would “not be detrimental to highway and pedestrian safety”, concerns were raised about the extension’s impact on the “character and appearance of the area”.

Concerns were also raised about the impact on the living conditions of a neighbour in relation to “outlook and light”.

An appeal decision report, published on the Planning Inspectorate’s website on September 27, 2023, explained the decision further.

It noted that the development’s “scale and massing at the end of a terrace characterised by single storey properties” would make it appear as “unduly dominant”.

The appeal decision report added: “ I have had regard to the appellant’s statement which highlights the importance of supporting an existing business, providing NHS dentistry services.

“However, the proposed plans and supporting information does not indicate that there would be any significant increase in NHS dentistry provision.

“The supporting statement does highlight the need to provide attractive facilities for employees to ensure they are able to attract and retain a suitable workforce.

“This would be in line with the aims of Paragraph 81 of the revised National Planning Policy Framework (2023).

“However, whilst I acknowledge that the proposed development would contribute to these aims, I afford these benefits limited weight given the size of the scheme.

“In this particular case, the limited benefits of the proposed development are not sufficient to outweigh the harm I have identified to the character and appearance of the area or to the living conditions of the occupiers of [a neighbouring property]”.

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