Friday, 15 February 2019

Care home demolition and rebuild rejected

A THIRD bid to demolish and rebuild a Victorian care home in Whitchurch has been rejected.

Majesticare, which owns Eastfield House in Eastfield Lane, said the scheme was the only way to retain the business as the existing building cannot accommodate the facilities that are required by a modern care home.

But South Oxfordshire District Council refused planning permission, saying the loss of the building would adversely affect the village’s conservation area while the proposed new building could harm two protected trees on the site.

Majesticare took over Eastfield House in 2002 but closed it in 2016 with the intention of building a £3million extension that would have increased the number of beds from 27 to 45.

Despite opposition from residents and the parish council, the company secured permission for this on appeal.

The firm announced its rebuild proposals last year, saying it had conducted research which showed only full reconstruction would be financially viable.

It commissioned a study which showed that residents now expected amenities such as a café, restaurant, cinema, hair salon and beauty treatment rooms.

Majesticare said Eastfield House was too irregularly laid out to provide these and the building no longer met accessibility standards due to its uneven levels and the lack of en-suite bathrooms.

It proposed building a new 48-bedroom home in the same red brick style with a similar footprint and a slightly lower roofline but a larger basement to accommodate a kitchen and laundry facilities.

The district council’s planning officers recommended refusal, saying the company’s business case didn’t justify demolishing the building when it could be preserved for housing or other uses.

They accepted there was a need for care places but this could be met in less sensitive locations.

In a report to councillors, the officers said Eastfield House made an important contribution to the area’s history and character.

They said there were no structural reasons why it couldn’t be refurbished, adding: “Buildings of this era are generally very solidly constructed and, if properly maintained, are normally expected to have very long lives.”

Objections were made by Historic England, Whitchurch Parish Council and Henley MP John Howell as well as 86 neighbours. There were 23 letters of support.

Majesticare did not respond to a request for
comment.

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