Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Plans revived to demolish and rebuild old care home

THE owner of a Victorian care home in Whitchurch has resurrected a bid to demolish most of the

THE owner of a Victorian care home in Whitchurch has resurrected a bid to demolish most of the building.

Last summer Majesticare was refused permission to knock down all but the front facade of Eastfield House and build a purpose-built  50-bedroom complex in its place.

Now the company is appealing against the decision by South Oxfordshire District Council, saying the Eastfield Lane home is no longer fit for purpose as it has poor disabled access.

The council said the building made a “positive contribution” to Whitchurch’s conservation area and that demolishing it would cause “substantial harm” to the surroundings.

More than 30 residents and neighbours also objected, as did Whitchurch Parish Council and Henley MP John Howell.

Majesticare’s agent Jeffrey Charles Emmett says the district council has never written a management plan for the conservation area so cannot speak with authority on the issue.

He says the premises have been extended and altered “in a disjointed and haphazard manner” since becoming a care home in 1981 and much of the interior has changed.

In an appeal statement to the Planning Inspectorate, Mr Emmett said English Heritage had assessed Eastfield House at the objectors’ request and declined to designate it a listed building.

The agency said it was “not of special architectural quality” and although its size was “striking” it had no links with famous architects or  residents.

It added that the building’s relationship with its setting did not appear to be of particular interest and it had seen “much extension” which was “unsympathetic”.

Mr Emmett said that, in refusing an application to demolish and replace the whole building in 2014, the district council had agreed the facade was of greatest significance.

He said: “Given the general acknowledgement that only the front elevation gives the building any real heritage kudos, it must be concluded that the proposals do not conflict with [planning policy].

“The proposals positively respond to and respect the character of the site and its surroundings... and are of a scale, type and density appropriate to the site and its setting.”

Mr Emmett said it was common for developers to keep the front of a building while redeveloping the rest and engineers had confirmed this was possible with Eastfield House.

Councillor Keith Brooks, chairman of Whitchurch Parish Council, said he was “disappointed” the appeal had been lodged and he and his colleagues would prepare a formal response at their next full meeting.

Majesticare first submitted plans to extend Eastfield House from 27 to 47 beds in 2010.

These were refused then dismissed on appeal on the grounds that it would overshadow neighbouring properties.

The company then asked permission for a 45-bed extension, which the district council also turned down.

However, this was granted on appeal in 2013. An inspector said the principle of development was acceptable and agreed the facilities needed updating.

Majesticare says it would re-use some of the demolished material in building the new complex, which would meet modern access requirements and have en-suite bathrooms in every room.

It says more beds are needed to meet growing demand.

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