Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Don’t demolish our ‘jewel in the crown’, say villagers

REVISED plans to demolish and rebuild a care home in Whitchurch have been opposed by the parish council and scores of villagers.

Majesticare, which owns Eastfield House in Eastfield Lane, wants to build a new home with 48 en-suite bedrooms in the same red brick style. It says this is the only way to secure the home’s future as the existing building doesn’t meet modern care standards and cannot be renovated.

It says there is a severe shortfall of care places in the area and this will only get worse with the average age of local people increasing.

But more than 80 objections to the company’s application have been lodged with South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority. Opponents say that even though the former Victorian residence isn’t listed, it is a key part of the Whitchurch conservation area. They claim the building could be converted into flats while the new building would lead to more traffic in the narrow lane, which children use when walking to the village school.

Emer Hoskin, who lives opposite, said: “It is a beautiful house and an important part of the village history. In my opinion, the applicants have allowed the deterioration of the building to have their demolition plans passed.”

Katherine Higley, of Manor Road, said: “The development would significantly alter the character of the neighbourhood. This building is the jewel in our crown and an important local landmark. The proposal is overbearing and out of keeping with its surroundings.”

David Lucas, of Swanston Field, said the new building would overlook residents’ gardens, including his, which would be an “unacceptable” invasion of privacy.

He said: “The proposed replacement is overbearing and at odds with the verdant and attractive appearance of a rural lane in a small village. Once the principle of demolition has been established, the applicant will almost certainly chip away at the more costly elements to further increase profits.”

Majesticare says the new building would be sympathetic to the style of the existing one and would use as much reclaimed material as possible.

The company says the new home would create the equivalent of 40 full-time jobs.

In 2013, Majesticare won permission, on appeal, for a £3million extension to the home which would have increased the capacity to 45 people. In 2016, it moved all the residents out but was then refused permission to either partially or fully rebuild the home.

Majesticare says Eastfield House doesn’t warrant protection as it is neither of high quality nor built by a noted architect, which is why a bid to have it listed in 2010 failed.

The district council will make a decision on the application by December 3.

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