Town divided as Lauder prepares to vote on health centre

artist impression of the new Lauder health Centre
artist impression of the new Lauder health Centre
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IT IS an issue that has split opinion in the Royal Burgh of Lauder and its surrounding settlements.

Should a new £2.2million health centre be located on common good land in Crofts Road that hosts a play park?

Protesters against the proposed site of the new Lauder Health Centre.

Protesters against the proposed site of the new Lauder Health Centre.

The town has been warned that a No vote will mean that a new health centre will not be built.

NHS Borders chief executive Calum Campbell and Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker, echoed by Lauderdale Community Council, emphatically believe that it should, while a local campaign group POGS (Protect our Greenfield Site) is vociferously opposed.

These diverse views will be tested over the next fortnight in a health board refendum, ballot papers for which have this week been sent to the 2,300 adults who are registered with Lauder’s only remaining GP surgery, at Factors Park.

The voting paper poses a simple question: “Do you support the proposal of NHS Borders to build a new health centre in Crofts Road, Lauder?”

Mr Campbell stressed the implications of the ballot result.

“NHS Borders has remained committed to delivering a purpose-built facility suitable for modern health care in Lauder,” he said. “However, we have an obligation to abide by the result of the ballot. A No vote will mean the funding is not released and realistically will mean a health centre in Lauder will not be built. A Yes vote will mean we can progress with the building this summer with the new facility open by the summer of 2013.”

As reported earlier this month, the size of the electorate has already angered POGS, which believes voting should be restricted to those living within the town boundary because it concerns the disposal of a Lauder common good asset.

But the dissent of these campaigners goes much deeper than the format of the referendum.

“This site has been foisted on the town for a myriad of reasons, none of which relate to the optimum location of a much-needed facility,” said POGS spokesman Gus Gilder.

“Other, much more suitable sites in the town, which do not involve the disposal of a cherished community asset, are available, but have not been seriously considered by NHS Borders,” he told us.

“SBC, for its part, has been complicit in several ways over the sale of the land and by allowing planning consent for the development with access from a narrow road which is already notorious for congestion, parking problems and speeding motorists.”

That was a reference to plans lodged by NHS Borders last year when the town had two surgeries. A decision on a revised planning application, taking account of the need to house a single practice, is pending, but Mr Gilder has no doubt it will go through on the nod.

“In my view it is deeply offensive to the people of Lauder that we are being asked to vote on this single site when it is clearly a fait accompli.

“I urge anyone who shares our many misgivings over this whole tawdry affair to not succumb to threats and vote No. NHS Borders has a legal responsibility to provide GP facilities which are fit for purpose.”

Voters have until 6pm on Thursday, February 9, to vote. The count takes place in the public hall the following morning.