Residents secure review over health centre access route

ACCESS to a new £12 million health centre is to be reviewed after local activists slammed plans for a narrow underpass.

Edinburgh City Council has agreed to look again at the proposal for the revamped link between Wester Hailes Shopping Plaza car park and the Healthy Living Centre, which it is hoped will revitalise the area when it opens next year.

It had been claimed that the tunnel would not be fit for use by disabled people and mothers with prams as it would be too steep and narrow.

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Pentlands MSP Gordon Macdonald had added his voice to the row, saying the underpass could become a crime hotspot, and would put people off using the state-of-the-art building.

Following a meeting to discuss the proposal last month when the existing tunnel plan was widely condemned by local residents, a report will now go before the council’s finance and resources committee recommending that other options are looked at.

City health leader Ricky Henderson, who also represents the Pentland Hills ward, welcomed the progress.

He said: “The local community have been quite clear about their views on the underpass and we have listened to what they have said. It was a make-do solution that provided access, but there were still concerns about safety and accessibility. We will now see if any alternative options can be drawn up.

“This health centre is going to prove to be a fantastic facility for the area. It is only right that we make sure all suitable designs for the underpass are considered.”

It is expected that additional funding in the region £600,000 would have to be found to construct an improved underpass.

Previous attempts to create a wider, more inviting entrance to the tunnel hit a brick wall after the shopping plaza car park leaseholder, Anglian Water Group (AWG), agreed to lease only three spaces to the construction consortium for a tunnel upgrade.

Council officials have now resumed talks with the company, and there are encouraging signs that an agreement will be struck to release more spaces for redevelopment. Cllr Henderson added: “It’s not guaranteed and we still may not get what we want, but there’s now a discussion and more focus on getting a better solution.”

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The Healthy Living Centre will offer a range of services, including the Wester Hailes Medical Practice and community health services such as podiatry, midwifery, dentistry, paediatrics, mental health, and learning disability care.

Council services such as health and social care, children and families and criminal justice and social work practice teams will be based in the centre, which will also house the Wester Hailes Health Agency, which is a local voluntary organisation.

The latest phase of the project, run jointly by NHS Lothian and Edinburgh council, has seen the completion of the building’s steel frame.

Work is now under way to ensure that the structure is watertight.