Woking Conservatives have welcomed Woking Community Hospital receiving planning consent for a diagnostic centre but in a swipe at the ruling Liberal Democrats argue that a seven-week delay to the consent was unnecessary.
A release by the Conservative Group accuses the Lib Dems of creating a planning delay to try to take credit for the development.
The release points to MP Jonathan Lord’s successful efforts to double the funding for the centre to £6million after a series of representations to then-health secretary Steve Barclay. The funding is part of a £2.3billion investment by government in 160 new diagnostic hubs across the country.
However, taking aim at the Lib Dems, Conservative councillor Steve Dorsett (Pyrford), who sits on Woking council’s planning committee, said: “I am obviously delighted that the extension to Woking Community Hospital to facilitate the new diagnostic hub was passed unanimously by the planning committee. We’re all clearly aware of the benefits of the new hub.
“What does bother me, though, is that planning approval was due to be granted seven weeks prior to the meeting under council delegated powers. It was called into the planning committee by three Lib Dem councillors.
“In the three years I have served on the committee, I have never seen an application called into the committee by more than one councillor.
“The reason for the call-in was supposedly a potential privacy issue, but this was then immediately solved in the applicant’s opening statement. There was less than five minutes of discussion before the decision was unanimously passed.
“It is clear the Liberal Democrats have manipulated the planning process in a blatant attempt to try to take credit for a government-funded scheme, and needlessly delayed an essential life-saving project by seven weeks.
“Just 30 seconds after being approved, senior Lib Dem councillors were trying to take credit for the planning decision on social media, despite being the ones calling the project in and causing the delay.
“This has not only cost the council financially in bringing this to the committee, but has also caused needless additional complications to a project that is sorely needed in Woking.”
Residents of Woking must at present travel to Ashford, Camberley, Guildford or Chertsey for the majority of diagnostic outpatient appointments.
The new development will offer a local centre, preventing the need for 30,000 hospital visits outside Woking annually, providing residents with a vibrant and modern health facility.
The planning consent will allow the NHS to complement the range of diagnostic services already provided at Woking Community Hospital, which include X-ray, paediatric audiology, adult audiology, ophthalmology, dermatology, bone density (dexa) scanning, and ultrasound, with cardiac testing and respiratory testing.
The development of a building extension connected to the current hospital will offer computerised tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), as well as expanding the ultrasound capacity and enable improved access for the mobile breast-screening unit.
Mr Lord said: “I am delighted the full and final planning application has now been approved. We can all look forward to having a fantastic new building up and running and serving the local community in the first half of next year.
“This terrific new facility will bring state-of-the-art facilities right to our doorstep and play its part in reducing local NHS waiting lists.”