A FOOT treatment centre’s plans to build an accessible new room for disabled patients have taken a step forward – despite concerns the development could harm the appearance of a Tamworth conservation area.
The Footsteps clinic, which provides podiatry and sports therapy, has been open throughout the coronavirus pandemic to help relieve pressure on NHS services, members of Tamworth Borough Council’s planning committee heard at their latest meeting.
But an application to create a new accessible treatment room for disabled patients at the back of the Albert Terrace premises was recommended for refusal by planning officers, who said it was “considered to be of a scale, siting and appearance which fails to adequately respect its context and would have a significant detrimental impact upon the character and appearance of the host dwelling and of the wider Conservation Area.”
A previous application to demolish an existing outbuilding and build a replacement treatment room was refused permission last year and an earlier development bid was also turned down and later thrown out at appeal. Other previous plans for a rear extension to the property have previously been passed however.
At Tuesday’s planning committee meeting supporters of the latest application spoke of the need for the new facility.
Margaret Clarke said: “The client base of this long-standing family business has grown tremendously over the years, creating a need for more facilities. During the pandemic, at the specific request of the National Health Service, the Footsteps practice agreed to remain open and treat as many patients as possible to lessen the load on our NHS.
“I am sure you know the effect Covid-19 can have on the mobility of post-Covid patients. This again has exacerbated the need for further provision of patient treatment facilities.
“As a very long-standing member of the Tamworth area advisory conservation committee, I believe that to grant permission for this application will enhance the lives of those Tamworth residents who have need of such facilities. The Victorian frontage of the premises remains unchanged.”
Jonathan Shearer from Footsteps said the development would be a modest extension.
He added: “We need increased downstairs space for better access for our elderly, disabled and vulnerable clients.
“A large number of Footsteps clientele are elderly and due to Covid-19 we’re having to work in bubbles. Therefore we need more support and downstairs space so that people do not have to go up the stairs.
“Our property is in a conservation area and is typical of terraced properties in Albert Road. The extension required is not visible from the public domain.
“Historic England says that even Listed Buildings need to meet the needs of current and future generations, as long as the main character has been retained. In this case the area of concern centres around the old toilet and coal shed, which may reflect on previous lifestyles but is no longer relevant today. Approval was obtained to remove this outbuilding.
“This represents our final attempt to expand our business and our clientele are struggling to understand the rationale behind the objection to our proposals. It was suggested that we should just move into larger premises in the town centre or elsewhere. Having seen this business grown up in Tamworth it is very hard to accept this.
“Scores of businesses like ours provide a valuable local service in a sustainable location and should be supported, not sterilised or forced to leave in order to protect the rear of an unremarkable terrace not visible to the public. The proposed extension would not be overlooked by any residential properties.”
The proposals divided opinion amongst committee members, with some calling for the development to be approved and others raising concerns the consent could set a precedent for similar schemes in the conservation area.
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