A BID to restore a cotton magnate's home into a 21st century health hub for Blackburn has finally been approved.
Historic Griffin Lodge has been a frequent target for arsonists and vandals since it was vacated 16 years ago by the North West Museum Service.
And now proposals by Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group to convert the grade II listed lodge, which dates back to 1824, have been given the go ahead.
Primary care chiefs have been discussing proposals to create a 'super surgery' for the west of Blackburn since 2016, to replace the ageing Witton, Limefield and Redlam medical centres.
The three surgeries are all located in former houses which are now deemed unsuitable for modern-day healthcare needs, with poor disabled access and difficult layouts.
Patients gave the thumbs-up to the possible switch in consultation sessions and staff have been working with care specialists Assura on the blueprints ever since.
Dr Hereward Brown, from Limefield Medical Centre, said: “This is an exciting step forward on our journey to create an even better experience for our patients and to improve the working life of our teams, as well as a fantastic thing for Blackburn to see this historic site transformed and put to work once again for our community.”
The new hub would allow for extended services away from hospital such as minor operations, a wider range of clinics and support including social prescribing, physiotherapy, mental health services for young people, COPD and pulmonary rehabilitation and other wellbeing services.
Extra space will be used to train student nurses, doctors and nurse practitioners and for health education work.
Dr Mark Dziobon, the CCG's medical director, said: “This is a major proposal for the area and is a really exciting development.
"For patients this is going to be a game changer. More than 90 per cent of the contact people have with the NHS locally is via their GP and GP practice.
"So it is important that people have not only modern and accessible GP services but also services operating out of buildings that are ahead of the times and our expectations.
"We know that patients want health and care services to be joined up, closer to home and the best that they can be and this development is a major step in that direction”.
Cllr Phil Riley, leader of the borough council leader, which now owns the site, added: "Ensuring our residents have access to the very best services is a top priority for the council and we’ve worked hard on this scheme with Assura.
“It’s fantastic these plans for the medical centre in our borough have been passed – bringing a grade-II listed building, which had fallen into disrepair, back in to use too. We’re looking forward to the work starting and seeing Griffin Lodge transformed into a state-of-the-art facility.”
If everything progresses as planned the health hub will open in 2024.
David Sadler, senior development manager for Assura, David Sadler, said: “There’s still a long, long way to go as this will be such a complex and challenging construction project but receiving planning permission is the next step along the road.
"We’ve already transformed a number of older buildings into incredible modern medical centres, from a Victorian school to a former fire station, but this is on a very different scale.
"The opportunity to help these three practices create their new home at the same time as protecting a local landmark for the future makes this doubly special.”