Monday, 14 October 2019

More homes for elderly required, says developer

Thamesfield care home in Henley, also owned by Retirement Villages Group

A COMPLEX of 65 “extra care” flats for the elderly near Shiplake is needed to meet the demands of an aging population, claims the developer.

Retirement Villages Group, which wants to a build on a six-acre field off the A4155, opposite the Haileywood Farm industrial estate, says this is more important than protecting the rural character of the site.

Christopher Young QC, the company’s barrister, was speaking at the end of a six-day planning inquiry into South Oxfordshire District Council’s decision to refuse planning permission for the scheme earlier this year.

He said the development wouldn’t harm views of the surrounding landscape as the site could be screened and the land to the west of the A4155 better defined the village’s character.

Mr Young said that by the year 2035 almost 28 per cent of the district’s population would be aged 65 and over compared with the national average of 23.3 per cent.

The number having trouble with daily tasks was expected to increase from 11,887 to 18,893 over the same period. About 90 per cent of homes occupied by that age group had at least one empty bedroom while 61 per cent had two or more.

About one-third of the company’s existing properties were occupied by people previously living within a five-mile radius so the scheme should free up 21 nearby homes for younger families.

Mr Young said the company accepted the site was at the edge of Shiplake but argued this didn’t prevent the current development of 95 homes being allowed at Thames Farm, a short distance to the north.

The site was also near Shiplake College, which had a number of “institutional” buildings, and it wasn’t in the green belt or the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Mr Young said: “The character of the site will change but that is true for any development and not a useful test. Considering whether a proposal harms the character and appearance of the area is a rather more useful exercise. In that context, the proposal is consistent with the character of the area, which is developed countryside.

“In areas such as Lower Shiplake, where there are no protective designations, such overt resistance to development is rather less justified.”

Robin Green, for the district council, accepted the need to house the elderly but said this was the wrong site for a development which ideally should be in towns and near public transport links and other services.

He said none of the flats would be “affordable” so the developer should have to make a contribution towards affordable units elsewhere, which it had not offered.

Mr Green said: “Lower Shiplake has a few [facilities] but given the route residents would have to take to get to them, they are unlikely to prove attractive.

“While the proposed development would have physical access to Lower Shiplake, in reality there would be little social interaction. The proposal would introduce substantial built development, with an institutional character unlike anything else in the vicinity, into an open field within a largely rural context.

“The refusal to make any contribution towards affordable housing provision in the district is also a serious and unjustified breach of development policy. This would cause significant, albeit localised, harm to the appearance of the area. Its significant benefits do not come close to overcoming the breaches.”

The development, which was designed in partnership with landowner Harjot Bal, from Woodley, would comprise 11 blocks up to two storeys in height. There would be 50 two-bedroom flats and 15 bungalows plus a clubhouse, gym, meeting room, shop, hair salon, bar and living and dining areas.

The proposal was opposed by Shiplake Parish Council and a number of residents.

A date for a decision by planning inspector Ken Stone has not been confirmed.

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