Friday, 22 October 2021

Bats could scupper plan to convert hospice into flats

PLANS to convert the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed into flats could be thwarted – by bats.

PLANS to convert the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed into flats could be thwarted – by bats.

An expert says there are almost certainly roosts at Joyce Grove which would be affected if the building was to be redeveloped but the charity has disputed this.

In February, Sue Ryder submitted plans to South Oxfordshire District Council to convert the hospice into 20 flats.

The charity says it has no “immediate” plans to sell or move from Joyce Grove but wants to consider all its options in case it moves to a modern, tailor-made building.

In December it pulled out of a planned move to the new Townlands Hospital in Henley.

The hospice is a Grade II listed building built more than 100 years ago and was once the family home of James Bond author Ian Fleming.

Dominic Lamb, countryside officer for the district council, is opposing the application because he says it is “highly likely” there are bat roosts at the building.

He said: “Insufficient information has been submitted by the applicant to allow me to determine what the impacts of this proposed development would be on the local bat population.

“Due to the potential of the existing buildings to provide roosting locations and the proximity of the site to prime bat habitat, I believe there is a reasonable likelihood of bats being present and affected by the development.”

Bats are a protected species under both British and European law.

Mr Lamb said: “I consider the proposal is likely to be detrimental to the maintenance of the species concernedâ?¦ as a result of the potential presence of bats and the lack of any information supplied by the applicant in the form of surveys and mitigation proposals, I object to this application at this stage.”

He said Sue Ryder should commission a bat survey of the building from a qualified ecologist.

Stewart Marks, hospice director of the Nettlebed hospice, said: “As part of our preparations in advance of our planning application, I can confirm that Sue Ryder conducted a comprehensive environmental survey in September.

“The resulting 100-page report was submitted as part of our planning application, which is in the public domain. The survey and report were produced by Ecus, a leading independent consultancy who provide environmental support for projects like these.

“The proposal will not impact the existing local bat population as all the proposed work is to alter internal room configuration only.

“We are not altering or adding to any of the external buildings, ensuring that our proposal is sympathetic to the local area and environment and, in general, the fabric of this important listed building.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to reassure the local community that we have no immediate plans to move from Nettlebed hospice and we will continue to deliver the same well regarded and respected services from this building.

“As always, we remain incredibly grateful for the community’s continued support, which enables us to be there for people at the most difficult time of their lives.”

When Sue Ryder submitted the application, chief executive Heidi Travis said: “This does not mean that any decision has been made about whether Sue Ryder services will be moving from Nettlebed hospice.

“We have taken this step to help inform us about all of the options that are available to us to enable the continued provision of the service for the long-term.

“As a charitable organisation, we have a legal obligation to ensure that our estate is effectively managed and to protect our assets and this application forms part of this obligation.”

The hospice has been at Joyce Grove for 32 years. The building was constructed in 1908 by CE Mallows for merchant banker Robert Fleming and enlarged in 1913 following a fire.

The district council is expected to make a decision on the application this month.

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