£10 million city health centre gets planned for derelict site
AN innovative health centre and a major housing development are being proposed for a derelict site in Wester Hailes that has lain empty for more than a decade.
The scheme would see a 10 million Healthy Living Centre, bringing together GPs, social workers and the Wester Hailes Health Agency - currently based in temporary huts - which offers services such as massage, counselling, self-help and smoking cessation. There would also be a cafe for the community serving healthy food.
Prospect Community Housing also wants to build 150 affordable homes on the "Ten Acre" site next to the Greenway Centre as part of the development.
But before the plans can go ahead, the city council must conclude negotiations with developers who are understood to have a lease on the land. Supporters of the scheme fear if an agreement is not reached, health chiefs will decide just to build the new Healthy Living Centre on the site of the existing Wester Hailes Health Centre.
But that would mean an extra cost estimated at 1.5 million for demolition and decanting the current services while the new building was constructed.
As well as the new homes - a mixture of flats and houses - Prospect's proposals for the site, where high rise flats were demolished about 13 years ago, include improving access to the shopping centre by redesigning a dangerous and little-used underpass and improving cyclepaths and footpaths throughout the area.
Local GP Dr Colin Cooper said : "The health needs of Wester Hailes need a co-ordinated response from health providers like social work, GPs and voluntary agencies. If it were possible, we would welcome being on the Ten Acre site, which Prospect Housing is hoping to develop." Dr Ian McKee, a retired colleague of Dr Cooper's and now the SNP Holyrood candidate for Edinburgh Pentlands, which includes Wester Hailes, said: "A community treatment centre was being talked about 11 years ago
. We are now being promised the Healthy Living Centre will be up and running in 2009, but if they don't sort out this Ten Acre site I'm told the health board and the council will go ahead with demolition, decanting and rebuilding on the current site.
"That will cost more, cause inconvenience and the site is smaller so there won't be the same opportunity for expansion."
The Ten Acre site plan was also backed by city housing leader Councillor Sheila Gilmore, who is Labour's candidate in the constituency.
She said: "It would mark a step-change in the level of healthcare in the area and also bring that whole site back into positive use."
Carol Cawood, director of Prospect Community Housing, said it would be a "real missed opportunity" if the Healthy Living Centre could not be built on the Ten Acre site along with the new homes.
She said: "The site has been vacant for all these years and this is a use which would genuinely benefit the community.
"Shirley Lamb, manager of Wester Hailes Rep Council, said the Healthy Living Centre was a great idea. And she said the rep council had been generally supportive of the plans overall.
Wester Hailes councillor Ricky Henderson said the time was ripe for the kind of development being proposed.
He said: "The community has been let down time after time by private developers making promises they cannot keep."
David Small of NHS Lothian said a business case for a Healthy Living Centre on the existing Wester Hailes Health Centre site was due to be presented to the city council and the health board in the next few months for approval.
The city council said it owned the site but refused to discuss the legal position over any lease.
No-one from Scarborough Developments, the company understood to be involved, was available for comment.
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