Saturday, 08 May 2021

Charity can convert old hospice into flats

Charity can convert old hospice into flats

PLANS to turn the former Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed into flats have been approved more than six years after they were drawn up.

The charity, which closed its inpatient unit at Joyce Grove in March last year, applied for permission for the conversion in February 2015.

Now South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, has given consent as long as a footpath running along the northern edge of the site remains open to the public.

Sue Ryder has moved its outpatient services to a palliative care “hub” at Battle Barns, near Crowmarsh, along with a telephone support line which can arrange “hospice at home” visits by medical staff.

It says the move was necessary because demand for hospice beds had been decreasing for several years and  surveys showed a growing number of people wished to die at home.

The charity has already confirmed its intention to sell the Grade II listed Victorian property, which was built in 1908 as a private residence for the Fleming banking dynasty and has 11 hectares of land.

It says it is preparing to market the property.

The planning permission allows the conversion of the main house and attached garage and stables, which are more recent, into 20 flats with between one and three bedrooms.

This would also require an extension of the first floor at the northern edge. 

The council’s planning officers said the proposals made the best use of the existing building.

They also accepted that none of the flats would be “affordable”, when council policy requires a quota of at least 40 per cent on new developments.

However, any developer would have to pay £1.44 million towards affordable homes elsewhere.

Vehicles would use the existing entrance through gates off the B481 and park in front of the house, as happened before the closure. To create additional parking space, temporary buildings south of the walled garden would be demolished.

Planning officers recommended approving the charity’s application, saying it wouldn’t have an adverse impact on the surroundings and the site was earmarked for about 20 homes in the local plan.

They said: “Sue Ryder is reorganising how it provides palliative care and the loss of this facility will not result in the loss of such care… as it intends to provide care directly in people’s homes rather than through a specialist facility.

“The proposals include a good balance between one-, two- and three-bed flats catering for different demographic groups and facilitating a wide cross-section of potential occupiers.

“The main building was constructed as a residential property and therefore is well suited to a reversion of this use, albeit in the form of flats rather than a single residential unit.

“The alterations would constitute less than substantial harm to the building’s interest.

“Importantly, it is proposed that the extensive grounds would be retained as a singular area of open space to be enjoyed by future residents. This would help to ensure that the development would preserve the historic landscape setting of the listed building.”

The officers said there would be no impact on neighbours as the nearest were more than 100m away and the estate was screened off by thick woodland and hedges at the boundary.

Nettlebed Parish Council didn’t oppose the scheme but said the footpath must be preserved. Highmoor Parish Council supported it.

Nettlebed Community School said it was already oversubscribed and increasing the village’s population could put more pressure on places.

The hospice closure sparked complaints from friends and relatives who said their loved ones couldn’t have coped in their final days without inpatient care.

However, the new hub has also been praised by those who say it allowed them to die in accordance with their wishes.

At one stage the service was set to move to the top floor of the new Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley but Sue Ryder pulled out of the deal with the NHS, saying the space wasn’t big enough and it didn’t want to be spread across multiple sites.

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