STOURBRIDGE GPs have celebrated the start of an £8.5m project to turn an historic town foundry into a state-of-the-art medical centre.

Doctors from Worcester Street Medical Practice hope the plan to transform the derelict Foster and Rastrick building into a one-stop surgery will bring the town’s healthcare into the 21st century.

The ultra-modern facility, off Lowndes Road, will provide GP services for 26,000 patients and will include an enhanced nursing suite, minor operations theatre, physio gym and rehabilitation area, a small lecture theatre, onsite pharmacy and car park.

Famous for being the birthplace of the famous Stourbridge Lion steam engine which became the first train to run in the USA in 1829 - the Grade II listed Georgian foundry will be regenerated and extended to include a modern glass frontage.

Medics at Worcester Street say they hope the development will act as a catalyst for regeneration in the run-down part of the town near to the Stourbridge Canal and River Stour.

Dr Carol Griffiths, from Worcester Street Medical Practice, said: “It’s part of the start of really exciting plans for Stourbridge and it’s going to enable us to expand our services enormously so people can have care closer to home.”

The site has stood empty for nearly a decade and history buffs have long been hoping the architecturally important foundry building could be brought back to use as it boasts a wrought and cast iron unsupported single span roof which - when built in 1820 - was the largest in the world.

The new centre, which was granted planning permission two years ago, has been designed by Birmingham based Abacus Architects - and Bea Landscape Design will be responsible for landscaping the grounds, which will lead onto a new area of public space.

Primary Health Properties is funding the project and will lease the 30,000 square foot building to the GP practice on a 25-year lease once building work is complete in 18 months time.