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15 April 2014, 12:18 | Updated: 15 April 2014, 18:01
A multi-million pound revamp of Castle Mall shopping centre in Norwich means the NHS Timberhill walk-in centre will have to move.
Around 85,000 people are thought to use the centre every year since it moved into an empty area underneath the cinema.
The new owners of the centre say the multi-million pound investment will bring major improvements to the existing retail and catering offer of the shopping centre. The changes are expected to provide six new restaurants and link Timber Hill to Norwich Castle.
The say they think tmproving the leisure element within Castle Mall will rejuvenate a mainly empty level within the shopping centre and provide a long term boost to the Centre’s shops and the Vue cinema.
Paul McCarthy, General Manager, Castle Mall, said:
“These plans are a fantastic way to improve Castle Mall for the people and businesses of Norwich and demonstrate our commitment to the local community. The new Restaurant Quarter will benefit shoppers and existing retailers and make the Centre a more attractive and family friendly destination.
“We’re proud that Castle Mall continues to be a major provider of employment to local people and we’re delighted that, when the new Restaurant Quarter opens, over 1,000 jobs will be supported by businesses here”.
The people who run the NHS walk in centre are not happy about having to move.
Katie Norton, Director of Commissioning for NHS England said: “We are very disappointed in the decision of the owners of The Mall not to renew the lease. We recognise the important services provided by Timber Hill Health Centre and we are committed to working with Timber Hill and the Clinical Commissioning Groups in Norfolk to identify options for the future. It is important to recognise that Timber Hill is a purpose-built medical centre and moving it will cause considerable disruption. At this time, the option of moving to an alternative location in the Mall has been rejected by Norwich Practices Limited on the basis of the significant additional cost associated with the option that has been put forward by the landlord.”
Dr Tesh Patel, Clinical Director of Timber Hill Health Centre is working to ensure that services for patients are not compromised “Our immediate priority will be to ensure both walk in patients and patients registered at Timber Hill Health Centre have a continuous primary care service. NPL are in urgent discussions with all concerned parties.
Katie Norton, Director of Commissioning for NHS England acknowledged that “while discussions between the landlords and Norwich Practices Limited have been taking place for a number of months, it is disappointing that the submission of a planning application for the area currently used by Timber Hill Health Centre was submitted on Monday 14th April by InfraRed without consultation. We appreciate that this is going to result in significant concerns for patients, carers who depend on the service, and for the staff who remain committed to delivering high quality care”
If permission is granted and InfraRed proceeds as it plans, the NHS will want to discuss keeping Timber Hill Health Centre open for as long as is necessary to put different arrangements in place.
A spokseperson from the Castle Mall told Heart:
"We recognise the important service that Timber Hill Health Centre provides to the people of Norwich and, in September 2013, began discussions with its operators regarding a possible move to a larger, more central and accessible site within Castle Mall on expiry of their lease. The proposed site would be custom-fitted to Timber Hill’s specifications and we have had several meetings with its operator about this.
"We retain a desire to keep the Health Centre within Castle Mall and have offered to make a significant contribution to the costs of the move and fit-out of the new premises. Our proposal ensures a continuous service is offered to patients as the transition from the current to the new premises would only happen once the new location is ready to open."