Developer urges council rethink on medical centre scheme after failing to attract an operator

St Mary's Row

Developers have urged Birmingham City Council to review conditions on a controversial redevelopment project after they admitted they had been unable to find the right tenant for the scheme.

Commercial Development Projects (CDP) is responsible for the St Mary’s Row project at the site of the former Meteor Ford car dealers in Moseley.

Planning permission was granted six years ago for the demolition of the garage buildings and its redevelopment to provide a mixed-use scheme comprising a retail food store (Tesco), medical centre and 14 sheltered residential apartments, together with a new access, 102 car parking spaces and landscaping works.

However, the retailer pulled out of the supermarket project and the site was sold to CDP, which has since found a replacement retailer in the not unsubstantial guise of Marks & Spencer, which is opening a food-only shop on the site.

However, despite its best efforts CDP has been unable to find a suitable organisation to operate the medical centre.

A report to Thursday’s planning committee states: “The applicant has explained that the reason for submitting this current planning application is that they have to date been unable to find both an interested and commercially viable party to operate the approved medical centre.

“Notwithstanding, they are still constructing the shell of the medical centre and submitting this current application so that in the event that they do not find a health care operator this part of the mixed use scheme could accommodate a non-food retail use (Use Class A1) or restaurant/café use (Use Class A3) at ground floor, and eight sheltered apartments at first and second floor (three one-bed units and five two-bed units).”

The proposed A1 or A3 unit would have a gross internal area of 362 sqm. The footprint of the three-storey medical centre building would remain as previously approved.

The ground floor would accommodate the proposed commercial unit, while the eight sheltered housing apartments at first and second floor are proposed to be run by the future operator of the approved 14 sheltered housing apartments situated above the M&S store.

The level of car parking would remain unchanged.

A condition of a previous consent for the scheme stipulated the retail store could not be occupied until the medical centre had been completed and was ready for occupation.

“The situation has again changed and now there is even less optimism that a health operator can be found for the site,” adds the report.

“The applicant is now nearing completion of the shell of the building and in light of no NHS funding being available for at least a year, probably two/three years in fact, they explain that they have been forced down an alternative route of providing commercial and residential, which is what is now sought under the current application.”

Planning officer Andrew Conroy said while the preferred option would have been to accommodate a medical centre on the site, he was satisfied CDP had made every effort to try and find an interested and viable operator. He said it was unrealistic to now leave an empty building shell.

“Therefore in order to make the scheme commercially viable, I concur with the principle of replacing the approved medical centre,” he said.

“I consider its replacement with a retail or restaurant/café use would complement the other approved uses (already being built out on the wider site) and prevent a large empty/unoccupied unit within Moseley Neighbourhood Centre. The housing units would provide an additional supply in the important sheltered sector.”