Proposed MS Therapy Centre faces race against time to retain secured funding

MS Therapy Centre Site

The organisation behind a new Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Therapy Centre proposed for land off Bradley Stoke is facing a race against time to get planning approval and commence building before a funding source is lost.

The West of England MS Therapy Centre is currently based in Nailsea but the charity behind the centre (The Bristol and West Multiple Sclerosis Society) has long had plans to construct a new centre in Bradley Stoke.

Several years ago, South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) allocated a parcel of land alongside Bradley Stoke Way (near Wheatfield Primary School) for the project and a planning application was lodged by the charity in September 2001.

That initial planning application proposed that access to the centre would be from Wheatfield Drive but this was successfully opposed by local residents in favour of a new access road off Bradley Stoke Way.

Planning approval was finally granted in June 2007 but “planning and funding difficulties” since then have meant that the project as originally conceived never came to fruition.

The Moonstone Appeal

A statement submitted with the latest planning application explains that a new chairman was appointed to the charity appeal behind the project in 2008 leading to it being re-branded The Moonstone Appeal.

The Moonstone Appeal has in turn appointed Perpetual Legacy, a charity which has considerable experience in supporting and developing charitable projects of this type.

The applicants say that by allowing a “compatible charity or similar function” to operate from surplus land on the site, the costs of developing the MS Therapy Centre have been significantly reduced.

Construction of the centre in two phases, with phase one starting by Spring 2010, will allow the conditions of already-secured funding to be satisfied.

Whereas the original scheme required £2.45 million to be raised by March 2010, The Journal understands that a much reduced sum of £800k now needs to be raised before the construction of phase one can begin.

MS Therapy Centre - North Elevation

A learning disability centre designed to accommodate up to six people and their carers was originally suggested as a suitable use for the remainder of the site but the applicants say that local people have indicated a preference for a pre-school nursery.

In its application, the charity asks for a number of conditions imposed in the original planning approval to be relaxed or waived. For example, the restriction of hours of opening to 9am – 7:30pm is questioned, with the charity stating that a significant number of patients might wish to use the facilities outside of normal working hours.

The issue of access from Wheatfield Drive remains controversial and the plans still envisage pedestrian access from that direction. Feedback from residents is said to have shown almost unanimous opposition to this aspect of the plans.

Esso Pipeline

Vehicular access to the site will be from west carriageway of Bradley Stoke Way, a few hundred metres south of Primrose Footbridge.

Difficulties acknowledged in the plans include the difference in levels between the site and the roadway and a buried oil pipleine (believed to be part of the Esso Fawley to Avonmouth route) that needs to be crossed by the new access road.

South Gloucestershire Council has opened public consultation on the new planning application. Comments must be received by Thursday 30th July.

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