Northumberland’s south east is to become the first place in England offering a topical and cutting-edge form of cancer treatment.
As we reported last year, the Proton Beam Therapy treatment centre, the second to be built by Proton Partners International in the UK, will be situated on the Earth Balance wellness site in Bomarsund and should be operational by 2017.
The planning application for the state-of-the-art facility was unanimously approved on Tuesday by Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.
Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) is a type of radiotherapy used in cancer treatment, delivering heavily-charged protons in a more targeted manner to reduce damage to other tissue and organs.
The treatment hit the national headlines early last year when the parents of five-year-old Ashya King took him from a British hospital and fled abroad to seek the treatment.
PBT was back in the news at the weekend after a US study found the technique caused fewer side effects than conventional radiotherapy.
The Government has also committed £250million to developing high-energy PBT services in the UK, with two facilities being planned in London and Manchester, which are expected to offer services from 2018.
Planning officer Neil Armstrong had recommended the scheme for approval in his report and described it as a ‘unique opportunity’ for healthcare provision in this part of the county.
Coun Andrew Tebbutt said: “It’s the last application of the day and there’s not many people left, but what we are about to consider is a ground-breaking, fantastic development.
“Anyone who saw the news over the weekend will know that proton beam therapy is the way forward for children with cancer.”
Coun Jeff Gobin said: “What an opportunity we have here.” Coun Dougie Watkin added: “Everyone here would wish it every success.”
At the launch event last summer, Mike Moran, CEO of Proton Partners International, whose first facility is in Wales where work has now started, explained that his firm’s vision is to develop world expertise in PBT treatment – ‘a world-class centre in a world-class county’.
“We want to transform cancer care in the UK,” he said. “We can’t say we have a first-world health service without Proton Beam Therapy.”