Pharmacy U-turn slammed

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher (right) and Jon Whitfield
Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher (right) and Jon Whitfield

A COUNCILLOR has slammed the decision to overturn plans for a “much-needed” pharmacy at a shopping parade on a busy stretch of road.

Hundreds of residents had signed a petition calling for a pharmacy to open at the shops on Catcote Road, opposite the Oxford Road junction, in Hartlepool.

An application by two pharmacists was originally backed by Hartlepool Primary Care Trust, but the decision was later overturned by the NHS Litigation Authority.

It is understood that the NHS Litigation Authority had received objections by nearby pharmacists who argued there was already sufficient provision in the area.

A panel took another look at the application and upheld the objections.

But the decision has been slammed by Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher.

He said there is a chemist in Oxford Road but that it is not easily accessible for a lot of residents, especially pensioners and those with disabilities.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who represents the Rift House ward, said: “I attended the appeals process and one of the arguments was that they did not class the Rift House estate as a neighbourhood.

“This is a community and people deserve this facility.

“As far as I am concerned it is about choice and hundreds of people want this pharmacy.

“That has been the case since the estate was built but they have lost out.

“I will be writing to the panel, although they cannot change the decision, to let them know the level of disappointment felt by residents.

“I will also ask them to come and meet with residents to explain their decision.”

The original application was approved by health bosses. A spokesman for the NHS Litigation Authority confirmed the appeal had been upheld.

He said he could not comment on the specific application but added that there is no further route for appeal.

The reasons behind the decision are expected to be published within six weeks.

Coun Akers-Belcher appeared in the Mail with a petition signed by almost 1,000 people alongside Jon Whitfield, of Euro Property Management, which owns the shop units.

Mr Whitfield said at the time that the development had improved facilities for residents and a pharmacy would have added to that.

It was hoped that any pharmacy would also have consultation rooms and the long-term plan was for a GP to move in on site.

The row of five units, which houses a convenience store, beauty salon and takeaway, opened in January 2009.