Businessman pulls plug on housing development to sell building to Sidmouth charity

Ian Barlow handing over the keys of the old Sidford surgery to Barry Lowden, the chairman of Sidmout

Ian Barlow handing over the keys of the old Sidford surgery to Barry Lowden, the chairman of Sidmouth Hospiscare along with Mary King and Gill Ryall. Ref shs 44 17TI 2983. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth Hospiscare is set to expand its services in the Sid Valley after striking a deal to buy the old Sidford Surgery.

Bulldozers were just days away from demolishing the building in September to make way for six new homes.

Planning permission for the site in Church Street was granted in August, but following a chance meeting with Hospiscare CEO Dr Gill Ryall, businessman Ian Barlow pulled the plug on his development after learning of the charity’s need for new premises.

Now, it will look to develop the site itself, with extended services to include a day centre offering respite, complementary therapies, counselling and education services.

The charity had been searching fruitlessly for six months for new premises to enable it to continue to meet the demands of supporting the Sid Valley’s growing aging population.

It had even considered the potential for a new base at Port Royal, and Dr Ryall and Mr Barlow met at a 3 R meeting to discuss the development, which led Mr Barlow to offer the surgery as a potential site.

Hospiscare voted to buy the premises at an extraordinary meeting, just three days before demolition was set to start.

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Mr Barlow said: “This is the future; if we want the hospital to be free for emergency care we need to provide care in the community.

“We were talking on the phone about what was needed, why they needed to be in the centre of the town and could they justify purchasing some of the most expensive real estate in the town [in the Port Royal development].

“Gill made it clear what they were looking for and what they needed, it had to have treatment rooms and space for more nurses and I said – why aren’t you buying Sidford Surgery?”

Dr Barry Lowden, chairman of Sidmouth Hospiscare, said: “I thought it was a generous gesture by Ian, both to us and to the local community in enabling us to purchase a building at a reasonable price as we seek to extend our services over the next few years. “I do think it was incredible that we had an extraordinary meeting on the Friday, made the decision to purchase the property and he called the bulldozers off which were coming in on Monday. The timing was perfect.”

Find out more about the plans on page 20.