Friday, 27 November 2020

Fresh proposals made to replace Victorian care home

THE owners of a Victorian care home in Whitchurch have submitted a second planning application to demolish it.

THE owners of a Victorian care home in Whitchurch have submitted a second planning application to demolish it.

Majesticare has asked South Oxfordshire District Council’s permission to knock down all but the front facade of Eastfield House in Eastfield Lane.

After winning a planning appeal in 2013, the company was granted permission to remove two old extensions at the back of the building and build a three-storey block that would increase the home’s capacity from 27 bedrooms to 45. But last year it sought permission to bulldoze the whole building and put up a purpose-built 50-bedroom complex instead.

The application was refused as planning officers said this would cause “substantial harm” to the village’s conservation area. There were objections from about 90 residents, the parish council and Henley MP John Howell.

Now Majesticare wants to still build the extension but knock down a far larger proportion of the home.

It would retain a section of the southern elevation around the main entrance and first-floor windows but would remove the historic pitched roof and three brick chimneys and demolish a single-storey wing to the west of the building.

Majesticare says it would re-use some of the materials in the new extension.

Villager Laura Lucas, a former parish councillor, has applied to Historic England for the building to be listed, meaning special permission would be needed to alter or demolish it. She said: “The home is just within the border of the conservation area and was clearly included for a reason. It is so attractive and in my opinion is the most beautiful part of the street scene in Eastfield Lane.”

The property was built in the early 1880s by the Blyth family, who supported the rebuilding of the village church and donated a new organ.

Majesticare says a refurbishment is needed as the current bedrooms do not meet modern care standards.

It says there is now greater demand for care home places because of the area’s ageing population and it wants to strike a balance between the need for better facilities and keeping the feel of the old home.

The district council has written to everyone who objected previously and will make a decision by the end of August.

Whitchurch Parish Council was due to discuss the application on Monday night but postponed the meeting.

Chairman Keith Brooks said members needed more time to decide whether it complied with district planning policies.

Monson, the district council’s drainage contractor, has provisionally objected as the site is on a flood plain.

It says Majesticare must submit a risk assessment outlining how it will deal with any flooding that arises.

Four residents have sent letters of objection.

Claire Scott said: “The building will be destroyed if just the facade is left intact. A building is much more than just the face it presents.

“The building is architecturally significant and pleasing to the eye... it is a well-known local landmark that is much loved.”

The district council is accepting comments until Thursday.

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