Friday, 27 November 2020

Third plan to demolish and rebuild care home

A THIRD planning application to demolish and replace the Eastfield House care home in Whitchurch has been submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council.

Majesticare, which has owned the former Victorian residence in Eastfield Lane since 2002, wants to erect a new building in the same red brick style with 48 en-suite bedrooms.

This would be of the same height but with a similar footprint to the existing home and a larger basement to accommodate facilities such as catering and laundry.

In 2013 Majesticare won permission, on appeal, for a £3million extension to the building which would have increased the capacity to 45 people.

This was despite opposition from residents, the parish council and the district council.

The company moved all the residents out but then didn’t proceed and instead submitted two more applications to demolish and replace the building, both of which were refused consent.

Majesticare says it sought independent advice which concluded that the extension wouldn’t be profitable as the old building couldn’t be adapted to meet modern access standards and provide the facilities residents now expect.

It also says that most people responding to its public consultation earlier this year supported improving the home’s facilities, although 59 per cent were against the proposed design.

Some residents also feared the impact on the Whitchurch conservation area and on traffic levels in the lane, which children walk along to reach the village primary school and is often congested.

Majesticare says its latest proposal would faithfully recreate the style of the old building. It would demolish several "unsightly" outbuildings and re-use as much original material as possible.

It says property experts Christie & CO have identified a shortfall of 202 care home places within three miles of Eastfield House and this gap will continue to widen over the coming decade if no new care homes are built.

The company’s agent West Waddy says: "In terms of scale, the impact of the building from either the street or from neighbouring properties will be lessened over that which was previously approved.

"While demolition of the existing building may be seen as a drastic measure, it is felt that the proposed replacement maintains the contribution to the street scene and conservation area and therefore does not result in demonstrable harm.

"The applicant seeks to deliver much-needed care in a building designed to meet its exacting standards and retain Eastfield House’s character."

Steve Oakes, Majesticare's director, said: "The development of the site during the Eighties and Nineties has resulted in a building that falls well short of current legislative requirements and the demands of customers. This includes fundamental considerations such as level access, bedroom size, corridor width and the provision of en-suite bathrooms.

"Our new proposals would deliver a purpose-built home delivered to the highest standards, with modern facilities that include a cinema, therapy room and beauty salon. The proposals would also create up to 40 new whole time equivalent jobs, as well as many more during construction and through the supply chain."

Although the building is not listed, planning officers asked to provide a heritage impact statement showing the scheme would “preserve or enhance” the village's conservation area, which it has done.

The parish council has yet to comment on the latest plans. The district council will decide the application by December 3.

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