Monday, 23 September 2019

Council steps up fight to stop care home demolition

FORMAL assessments of Whitchurch’s historic buildings could be carried out to protect them from unwanted development.

The parish council is to ask South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, to reappraise the village’s conservation area, which was last done in the Seventies.

This follows a planning application by Majesticare to knock down and rebuild the former Eastfield House care home in Eastfield Lane.

The building is within the eastern boundary of the zone but is not listed by English Heritage as it was deemed not sufficiently unique or historically significant in 2010.

The company says a new building is the only way to make the home viable and bring it into line with modern access requirements.

It would have 45 beds instead of the 27 previously and would meet a growing need for care places.

The new home would use reclaimed materials from the old building. The parish council and more than 80 residents have objected, saying it would spoil the character of its surroundings.

A new appraisal of the conservation area would outline its history and that of each building within it, explaining how they have a positive effect on the village’s appearance.

It would also state what types of works should be permitted in the area, including landscaping and the erection of new buildings, in order to preserve its special characteristics.

Crucially, the district council would be obliged to consider the document when deciding planning applications.

The parish council may also ask the district council to consider issuing an urgent works notice against Majesticare to prevent Eastfield House from becoming irreparably damaged. An identical request made a year ago was turned down by the district council, which said there was no evidence of a problem.

Now parish councillors say the home is deteriorating and there are holes in the roof.

The building has already been vacant for more than two years and youths have broken in and attempted to start fires on a number of occasions. Earlier this year, Majesticare installed new fencing and CCTV to deter more vandalism.

Meanwhile, Henley MP John Howell has written to the district council expressing his concern at Majesticare’s proposal, which follows two earlier plans to partly demolish Eastfield House which were turned down.

In the letter to head of planning Adrian Duffield, he said: “I am sure you are aware of the volume of comments from residents and thus the strength of local feeling against this application. Residents have raised a number of other detailed concerns but the key issue appears to be that this current application seems to have total disregard for the previous decision[s].”

Mr Howell told the Henley Standard: “The plans are insensitive and don’t take account of the location. This is a situation where the two sides must work together to reach a compromise and, at the moment, the developer’s position is not a good compromise.”

Majesticare director Steve Oakes, said: “Eastfield House is no longer fit for purpose and re-using the original building would fundamentally undermine the viability of any future development.

“The need for care beds in this area is now critical and we want to bring the building back into operation as soon as possible. Within 10km of Eastfield House there is already a shortfall of 403 beds, which is likely to grow to 800 within 10 years.”

The district council is due to make a decision by December 3.

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