A new private dental practice has been given the green light for St Margarets after a unanimous vote at last night’s planning meeting (October 11).

The planning application has proven divisive, with 62 objections and 77 comments of support.

Dr Samantha Laycock and Dr Hetal Patel applied to build the surgery at 161 St Margarets Road, Twickenham, just two doors down from another practice Amber Dental, in an area where there are 15 dental practices within a 1.5 mile radius.

Supporters argued a new surgery would provide “freedom of choice” and it is clear Dr Laycock, who has been in dentistry for nearly 20 years, has a loyal customer base who live locally and travel, sometimes long distances, to see her.

Opponents argued there is already an “over-concentration” of practices in the area and suggested a new private surgery would take away “vital” patients from nearby businesses with some fearing the NHS provision at Amber Dental would be “threatened” as a result.

Putting forward their case at the meeting, Dr Patel said the surgery would “provide employment”, the refurbishment would “improve the look of the parade” and there would be “no adverse impact on traffic”.

She added the “only interest in the project has been from coffee shops, estate agents, hairdressers and take-ways” of which there are many in the area.

Your Local Guardian: Dr Patel speaking at the meeting 

Dr Laycock said she and Dr Patel were “very pleased” with the result, which was delayed by two months after it was decided the application should go to the planning committee.

She said: “We are just looking forward to being able to work locally.

“It will be lovely to be able to work within my community.”

Both dentists live near the area, as do many of their customers.

The owner of Amber Dental Dr Paramjit Panesar said a private surgery so close “may compromise” its ability to provide NHS services.

However, Dr Laycock said: “The new surgery shouldn’t affect other businesses in the area.

“NHS funding is ringfenced so as long as their customers are happy with the service they won’t move.”

Another issue raised was that Richmond Council’s Local Plan states that to change the use of a premises, it should be empty for at least two years, whereas the site only became vacant in November last year.

During the committee meeting, planning officer Nicki Dale said: “We normally we look for two years but ultimately it’s up to the local authority.”

New local planning policy, emerging in the past two years, is clear that two full years of marketing evidence should be provided.

Ms Dale admitted they do not have two years but they “do have some suitable alternative evidence about the quality and state of the building and its use” that “on balance” results in a recommendation of approval.

She added: “Bear in mind it is still emerging so limited weight can be attached to it.”

Giving her seal of approval, councillor Pamela Fleming said: “Normally I would be defending keeping office space but I think this is very good for employment and it brings footfall to the area.”

Dr Laycock and Dr Patel aim to open the surgery early in the new year.