Can you help investigate? Realise Health Ltd, Wivenhoe Council, and an unusual planning decision

This month it emerged that Wivenhoe Town Council had held a secret meeting with Realise Health Ltd (RHL) to discuss a change in location for a proposed new surgery.

Wivenhoe is a North Essex town with a population of just over 10,000. The current surgery is based in a converted bungalow. It also serves the nearby village of Alresford, which has a population of over 2,000 residents. A new health centre has been needed for over fifteen years.

In February Wivenhoe Town Council announced that NHS North Essex had finally signed off a £1.5m funding bid from the surgery.

A site that was relatively central in the town was stated as the location, subject to the successful purchase from the private landowner.

No further news emerged during the monthly Town Council meetings.

Realise Health Ltd (RHL) is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with the aim of securing contracts to build health facilities in North Essex. The company falls under the wider structure of Mill Asset Management, a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) that provides financial management for PFI and PPP projects.

The new location, Cook’s Shipyard, that was discussed behind closed doors has raised concerns from local residents. Cook’s Shipyard is inaccessible by public transport. Access is limited via a narrow stretch of old Victorian properties. Parking is at a premium.

Although Wivenhoe Town Council has offered no minutes on the meeting with RHL, it has emerged that lawyers have already been instructed on the new land acquisition.

A pre-planning meeting has taken place with the local authority and the District Valuer has opened his file.

All of this activity has been taking place without the residents of Wivenhoe being informed. No information has been offered as to why the previous site is now unsuitable; it is unclear as to who owns the new preferred site and what the conditions of sale are that make it preferable.

The concern is that this new location is being pushed through ahead of the introduction of the new Clinical Commissioning Group. Residents fear that the hushed up deal will be offered as a Hobson’s Choice: accept the second best option now before the CCG takes control, or lose the new health centre altogether.

I am interested in working with others using Help Me Investigate and the hyperlocal Wivenhoe Forum to find out why residents weren’t informed of this new deal, and why there is such an urgency to make it happen ahead of the phasing out of the Primary Care Trust.

If you want to help or have some expertise that might be useful, please get in touch via, this form, or the contact details below:

Jason Cobb
Twitter: Jason_Cobb