THE construction of what will become one of the biggest veterinary surgeries in the Midlands is nearly complete.
McMurtry and Harding, which has been run from a practice at the top of the Market Place, Ashbourne, for generations, has invested in a state-of-the-art building off the A515 near the Stepping Stones pub to give the business more room to grow and expand.
The site was formerly three fields owned by Nestle, which McMurtry and Harding bought in 2008.
Its four directors – Dan Harding, Steve Trethewey, Michael Colgan and James Russell – have been balancing their responsibilities as rural vets with overseeing work on the site, but they now hope the new building will be ready by the middle of August.
Mr Harding took the Ashbourne News Telegraph for a tour of the new facilities.
Mr Harding said: "I think when it opens it'll actually be something of an anti-climax because we've really enjoyed getting involved in the building process and there's a real buzz about the place.
"But all the staff are really happy about the move and really excited and that's the main thing."
The 800sq ft building is designed around ultra-modern energy-saving principles, which include a roof layered with solar panels, its own mini water-treatment plant and rainwater-harvesting tanks and an air-source heat pump.
All the energy-saving and harvesting technologies mean the huge building is close to being self-sufficient.
Although the practice has grown in its current home, which also occupies buildings in King Street behind the main entrance, Mr Harding says the new facility will make life much easier for customers.
He said: "Our biggest problem in the Market Place and King Street is the movement of people. There just isn't enough space for people to get in and out.
"Say you've got a Rottweiler that isn't very mobile. To get it in is one thing but to get it in to kennels that are shared by cats is just a logistical problem.
"The design of the new building makes it easier to do everything based on clinical need, rather than just how we're able to do things.
"At the moment the nursing staff are treading on each other's toes rather than working on things."
As well as making a big improvement in the care the practice can offer to small animals, the new centre will allow for an expansion in the practice's work with larger animals. The building has a special equine facility, as well as stalls for cattle, sheep, pigs and other farm animals.
Mr Harding said: "There's scope to treble our small animal work in the new building but we hope to realistically double it.
"At the same time our equine work will come back to full strength and that will grow over time."
The building will also give the firm scope to employ more staff as it grows and it also includes accommodation for student vets and on-call vets to stay on site.
On the first floor, an area has been set aside as a meeting room, capable of seating around 40 people, which McMurtry and Harding intends to rent out to members of the public and organisations.
Mr Harding said: "We want people to be assured we are the same people with the same ethics and principles, just in a new building.
"We don't want people to think it's going to be any different to how the practice has been in the town centre. It should be the same service – only better."