Creative Scriptwriting and Copywriting

Prime plc

The project:

For Prime plc, a leading developer of primary healthcare buildings, I wrote a series of brochures detailing the construction stories behind many of their new projects. Here’s one:


Future-proof

Prime’s new Northumberland health centre provides the space and flexibility to deliver local primary care for many years to come. And a commitment to green architecture ensures the building enhances its historic surroundings.

The residents of Corbridge, some twenty miles to the west of Newcastle, are proud of its long history. The Saxon Church of St Andrew and many of its handsome houses are constructed with stone from the ancient Roman town of Corstopitum, and the bridge that spans the Tyne dates from the 17th century. But a recent arrival on the edge of the village is a new focus for local pride – the smart new Corbridge Health Centre has been built with environmental considerations at its heart, using alternative technologies and local materials to create a sustainable building that will last.

The previous health centre in Corbridge wasn’t old, but it was becoming redundant as the local population grew. Built in 1983, and set at the middle of the crowded village, it was no longer able to cope with the demands placed upon it. Although the building was small, Tynedale Council planners were reluctant to see it extended, and add to the parking difficulties that plague the village centre. With no obvious alternative site available to create the kind of flexible space that was essential for modern primary care, local GPs and Northumberland Care Trust could have become frustrated, as Practice Manager Julie Johnston points out: “Finding a plot had been a real problem but it’s not in the nature of Dr Cunningham, who led the project, to give up.”

With Prime’s support, a solution was found just half a mile from the village centre. The greenfield site was initially considered unsuitable under the council’s Local Plan, but having drawn a blank with so many other possibilities, Prime put forward a compelling proposal to develop the site. With the enthusiastic support of the general practitioners, the local community were invited to a public meeting, where more than one hundred interested residents were shown the imaginative ways in which the new centre would enhance village life, and the sustainable building methods that ensured its impact on the village and the wider environment would be minimised.

As a result of this close public consultation, and after detailed negotiation with planners and English Heritage, and input from the medical team, Prime’s architects, Panton Sargent, designed a radical building on the sloping site. The timber-frame structure is built from sustainable FSC-accredited (Forest Stewardship Council) sources, and results in a super-insulated lightweight building, dramatically reducing heating costs, and ensuring less concrete was required for the foundations. The building’s carbon footprint is reduced further by its solar thermal hot water heating system, and the rooftop wind-catchers that draw fresh air into the heart of the building. Indeed the centre is largely naturally ventilated throughout, and passive provision has been made so that in future the centre may require no artificial air conditioning at all.

Externally, the centre makes a positive contribution directly to the local environment with the finish of natural slate and stone relecting the traditions of the area. A natural spring flowing through the area has been used to feed a pond on the site, creating a new habitat for wildlife, and a point of interest for staff and vistors alike.

The finished Corbridge Health Centre has been welcomed by staff and patients. “The reaction has been really positive. Patients really warm to the appearance and the ambience of the building,” according to Julie Johnston. “We have the speech and language team based here, which means our own practice patients, and others from the local area, don’t have to travel all the way to Hexham. We’re able to give better care now we can liaise with the school nurse and health visitors in the same building.” So now, as well as the forward-looking new centre, a marked improvement in local healthcare provision looks set to be included in the future historical record of Corbridge.

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