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PLANS to set aside only £120,000 for healthcare improvements in Wickford have been defended by a developer.

Countryside Properties, which is behind a major development of 575 homes on the former Runwell Hospital site, has agreed to hand over the cash for being allowed to build, following talks with Chelmsford City Council.

Campaigners say the cashwould do little to ease the burden in Wickford, which has one doctor for 1,700 people.

The £120,000 will be split between four GP practices – Swan Surgery, Wickford Health Centre, Applewood Surgery and London Road Surgery.

Chris Bladon, homes and development director for Countryside Properties, said: “The funds for healthcare in respect of the Runwell Hospital redevelopment were calculated by the local NHS to provide a contribution towards improving the existing healthcare facilities.

“The local NHS prepared their own independent health impact assessment in relation to this planning application.

“The healthcare provision is part of a comprehensive package being provided by Countryside which includes affordable housing and significant improvements to the nearby A132 and Runwell Sports and Social Club.”

The developers have also agreed to contribute £1.8million towards secondary school places and £300,000 on a school bus service.