Wednesday, 10 August 2022

We need affordable housing, not care home say residents

We need affordable housing, not care home say residents

A CARE home operator says its proposed move into Henley will meet “significant” unmet need.

B&M Care has applied for planning permission for a 65-bed home on the site of the former Henley Youth Centre in Deanfield Avenue, which it bought for £3 million in 2015.

But residents opposed to the development say the home is not needed and the land should be used to build affordable housing as it was earmarked for 23 homes in the Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

Two similar developments have already been approved by South Oxfordshire District Council despite opposition.

One was for 53 extra care flats for the elderly and disabled at the former Jet garage site in Reading Road, which was earmarked for 55 ordinary flats in the neighbourhood plan. Work on this development by McCarthy & Stone is under way.

The other was for an 80-bed care home at the former LA Fitness gym in Newtown Road, although this site has since been put up for sale by Henthames, of Essex, which bought the land in 2015.

Planning agent Carterwood produced a planning needs assessment for B&M Care, which said even if the other two developments are built, the Henley area would still have a shortfall in the number of bed spaces of at least 171 and as much as 353.

The report said: “Should the proposed 65-bed scheme be developed, it will fill only 18.4 per cent of the unmet need. People living with dementia are poorly catered for, with only a handful of dedicated specialist dementia units in the catchment area offering living environments that accord with best practice.

“Our analysis indicates there is a significant unmet need for dedicated dementia provision.”

Marcus Lambert, director of PPML Consulting, the agent for B&M care, says the older population is growing.

In a letter to the district council, he says: “The 2011 census established that the Henley and Harpsden area is over-represented by 65- to 90-year-olds, pointing to an ageing population locally whose needs require accommodating.

“The Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan makes no mention of delivering accommodation for the elderly as a key challenge.

“It acknowledges the ageing population in this community then offers no real vision or policy as to how to accommodate their needs.

“A range of housing types and sizes will be needed to meet the needs of different groups in the community and this should naturally include older persons.”

Objectors disagree. Jonathan Williams, of Damer Gardens, Henley, said: “The legally binding joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan states that the land is for housing, of which 40 per cent must be affordable.

“The catchment area identified includes parts of Reading, Windsor, Maidenhead, High Wycombe, Marlow and Sonning Common.

“The Henley and Harpsden catchment area is much smaller, thus invalidating the ‘estimate’.

“There is insufficient parking for the care workers and visitors and inadequate infrastructure for the vehicles that the care workers will use to travel to and from Henley — they’ll all have to live outside Henley as there are no affordable homes being built.”

John Thornley, of Makins Road, said: “Henley needs affordable housing, not care homes. I understand that this was agreed in the town plan.”

Robert Mezo, of Elizabeth Road, said: “The report consistently reports on a ‘bed shortage’ when caring for people in beds is not what 21st century elderly people want or need.

“Policy and research are increasingly dictating that elderly people want or need, just like the rest of the population, to remain as independent as possible. That usually means staying and being cared for in their own homes.

“The report fails to take into consideration the availability of domiciliary care in the area, for which there are several providers who can also provide care and support for those suffering with dementia.

“Lack of housing is certainly an issue in this area but forcing our elder population out of their homes and into an unnecessary care home isn’t the answer.”

Robert Munro, of Blandy Road, says B&M Care fails to take into account the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence-based home support systems, which would help counteract any claimed increase in the requirement for care home places.

Paula Isaac, of Gainsborough Road, said the site was not suitable for a care home and there was already a problem with congestion due to The Henley College being nearby.

“There is heavy footfall throughout the day and lots of traffic,” she said. “The proposed building would be better on the outskirts of town.

“The site would be better used for social/affordable housing for young people, which is greatly needed.”

A district council conservation officer says the home would not harm the Henley conservation area or listed buildings despite a greater visual impact compared with the former youth centre.

B&M Care already operates 23 care homes in four counties including Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

The land was put on the market when the Thamesfield Youth Association said it could no longer afford the youth centre’s £45,000-a-year running costs.

The sale included a derelict plot behind the centre which was owned by the college.

The proceeds were split between the association and the college with the former receiving a slightly larger share. Since then the association has made grants to community groups and charities in the town, including £50,000 to youth and community project Nomad.

The district council is due to make a final decision by the end of next week.

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