CAMPAIGNERS demanding a permanent walk-in health centre in Southend have reacted with disappointment after it emerged it could be left in temporary buildings for five more years.

The St Luke’s Health Centre in Pantile Avenue, was supposed to close at the end of the month, when temporary planning permission expires.

But it will stay open, provided town planners agree, as health chiefs have yet to secure a permanent site for it to move to.

NHS Property Services has applied to Southend Council for planning permission to extend the use of the current building for a further five years.

Frank Gulley, former headteacher of Temple Sutton Primary School, who has been campaigning for a permanent St Luke’s centre for several years, said: “We have been in talks with NHS South East Essex representatives who have assured us the provision of a permanent and appropriate solution is a high priority and they hope progress will be made on a decision in the next few months.

“This forgotten and neglected part of Southend needs health officials and local authority leaders to apply some vision to end three decades of health inequality.”

Since opening in 2009 between 8am and 8pm daily, the number of registered GP patients using it has more than tripled from 2,000 to 6,250.

It costs the NHS about £55,000 a year to rent the demountable buildings and car parking space.

Mr Gulley added: “Each year £55,000 is being virtually given away to rent a temporary building and not being used in primary care.”

The centre is run by Care UK, which is looking for other sites with the NHS.

A statement with the planning application said: “The temporary building is still required to continue provision of critical health care services.”