WICKFORD’S long-awaited new health centre could be open by 2015, a senior councillor has claimed.

Last month, Basildon Council voted behind closed doors to approve construction of the facility on the site of Wickford Market.

The Echo revealed the Tory administration was planning to build on the site after dismayed traders were told they might need to vacate by August 2014, with the market moving into the High Street.

The council has revealed it is to press ahead with planning the health centre.

Discussions are planned with the NHS next week to create a facility that will offer a “wider range of services” for Wickford residents.

The Echo understands a GP surgery in London Road will be relocated to the new building as its lease is up in April.

Malcolm Buckley, Basildon councillor responsible for regeneration, said: “Subject to approval, the council will press ahead with building the centre.

“Over the next few weeks we will hopefully reach agreements and the new centre could be built by 2015. which is positive news for Wickford.”

The council will fund construction and then lease the building to the NHS.

Mr Buckley claims while some of the undisclosed seven figure sum will have to be raised by borrowing, his authority will recoup it by selling off some council land and property portfolio.

He also claimed a minimum 25-year lease will guarantee the cash is not wasted.

The plans for a new health centre in Wickford were first mooted as part of the doomed Wickford Masterplan which surfaced in 2006.

The rest of the market site will become housing or possibly retail slots, with land sales paying for the new facility.

Campaigners insist it must be an improvement on current medical facilities in the town.

Nigel Le Gresley, Ukip councillor for Wickford Castledon, said: “If they are going to spend time and money shutting down the market then we need a facility that will be better than what Wickford has at the moment, perhaps something as good as a small cottage hospital that does minor operations.

“But if its the same as we have already then that is not good enough.”