Waverley Planners were reluctantly called to yet another meeting on Wednesday to REFUSE a planning application from the Cranleigh Village Health Trust.
ACT ONE – To defer or not to defer? That was the first question?
There was a feeling of de-ja-vu for planners as they considered another revised scheme from a beleaguered charity that refuses to take No for an answer, regardless of how many times it is refused, or costs to the charity or the taxpayer.
A controversial scheme for a private nursing home that some councillors claimed could become a Big White Elephant in an Area designated as an Area of Strategic Visual Importance (ASVI). The site known as The Paddock Field valued at £250,000 was sold by the parish council for £1 – in a land swap agreed over two decades ago for a Hospital/Day Hospital and Health Centre.
After 20 years, it has morphed into a 64-bed Private Care Home – a residential block of flats for key workers, and 16 community beds. Beds, which officers stressed, were NO longer free at the point of delivery and had no health or local authority backing.
The Waverley Web has lost count of where the latest scheme ranks in the pecking order of the former HOSPITAL Trust that changed its name to HEALTH Trust.
Plan A for a hospital was granted as an ‘exception’ and permission lapsed. Plan B was dumped for Plan C, and then Plan D and then E. Now after a string of refusals, a cancelled appeal, deferrals, and re-designs it was back on the table again this week for yet another lambasting from councillors across Waverley’s eastern region.
Planning officer Kate Edwards – said the applicant wanted to defer the scheme for yet further negotiations with the county council, which had withdrawn its support, contradicted statements made previously. Mrs Edwards said it had also argued that…
... the statements I have made in the report before you are prejudicial.
In the ongoing blame game – It had also complained that the council had not allowed it to work up a legal agreement for various ways the community beds could be used and funded. This was, said Mrs Edwards, not the council’s practise and was not prudent when officers recommended refusal.
Any community benefit in the previous refusal was now further reduced – as Surrey County Council and its partners The Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) had withdrawn support and now intended using an entirely different model of care in patient’s homes.
Godalming Cllr Steve Cosser was”sympathetic” to the Trust’s difficulties and supported deferral. This was promptly refused by the committee, believing any further delays of the long-running saga should be resisted. Cllr George Wilson reckoned Cranleigh people had waited long enough as the scheme had been hanging around for “such a long time, we should get on with it.”
Full marks to Officer Edwards, who despite the noises off, forged ahead undeterred and composed, with her presentation, and reasons for the recommendation.
There was a total of 465 objections, 39 added in the past few days, and 240 in support. The Applicant had claimed letters had been duplicated – so after further analysis, letters in support had been reduced!
She described the proposed two and three-storey care home and accommodation block buildings as very large, and very close to the Downs Link footpath.
Rowena Tyler spoke against the scheme on behalf of Cranleigh Parish Council, also an adjacent landowner. Whilst it had long supported the creation of a new hospital/day hospital and GP led Health Centre, a use which had been “exceptional” and backed by the public, this was no longer the case and there was now NO community benefit. The land had been designated an ASVI in Waverley’s Local Plan, and there were restrictive planning policies against it. Health and Social care supporters had all withdrawn.
“This scheme is for two very large buildings on a green field outside the settlement of Cranleigh, for beds, that the authorities say they no longer need or want and backed by an anonymous benefactor of whom we have no details. There is no CIL -( funding for infrastructure) and therefore no benefit to the Cranleigh community, and we strongly object.
Andy Webb spoke up for the Campaign Group that had, over time, generated petitions with more than 5,000 signatures opposing the development and calling for the land to be returned to village leaders. There would be a detrimental effect on residents of Wiskar Drive, increased hazards at the Junction of Knowle Lane and High Street, in an area that floods.
With no support from the ITC, SCC or the Cranleigh GP practice, “which isn’t what you would expect.” The community beds were no longer free or needed. There were numerous nursing homes within a three-mile radius and many more beyond.
He said: “The people of Cranleigh don’t want a great big Monolith that will become a white elephant in the years to come.
Arguing for the applicant John Sneddon maintained there were numerous community benefits and every effort had been made to overcome previous objections. The size of the buildings had been reduced and open space increased. The development would be a huge community benefit housing older people while satisfying the CVHT’s charitable objectives.
“How can the health authorities say one thing in 2019 and change their minds in 2020?”
Cllr Liz Townsend centred her opposition on the numerous “unidentifiable benefits” of a scheme, that had no support from health and social care experts, and had no named nursing home operator. As for providing 14 affordable homes; 1,600 homes had already been granted in Cranleigh – 480 of which were affordable, many within walking distance.
She rejected the applicant’s claims that there been a small number of vocal objectors saying, this is just not accurate.
It was quite simply the landscape for health care had changed. It’s tough for the charity, but it has not kept the community which had contributed £2m on board. It had continually refused to meet residents and the attempts by the parish council had also failed.
“CVHT has simply closed its ears to the voices of the public, and should be refused for all the reasons stated by our officers.”
Alfold’s Cllr Kevin Deanus – said the scheme breached eight of the council’s planning policies, asking everyone to visualise the huge sizes of the buildings.
One almost 200ft (60m) long and the accommodation block – 122ft long and 66ft wide – in the middle of an Area of Strategic Visual Importance!
The impact will be huge – this is not what Cranleigh is about – this is horrendous!
” I can’t see any benefits from this development whatsoever“, said Godalming’s Cllr Paul Follows, and criticised the charity’s tenuous efforts to provide residential development in the grounds of a private nursing home. He put great weight upon the objectors and parish council’s comments. “The list is endless.” He said the reasons for a virtual meeting called by Cranleigh Cllr Patricia Ellis would require further investigation.
Cllr Steve Cosser said there was a ‘very angry mood in Cranleigh.’ However, the ICP had not proved very helpful and should have provided a written statement. (Its statement is included in the officer’s report below!)
However, there was one champion for the scheme.- The lone voice of Cllr Ellis, who used her council prerogative to prevent an officers refusal under delegated powers, was fully in support. Although much was centred around the old cottage hospital, and previous attempts to build a hospital. She believed having a private care home plus 16 community beds would be an asset.
But it was Cllr George Wilson that once again raised the spectre of the elephant in the room. Claiming the withdrawal of support, from the public, private and health authorities could result in a white elephant when SCC had left a former residential care home to rot.
With numerous care homes in Cranleigh and a different model of future care proposed, Cranleigh Cllr Ruth Reed said Cranleigh’s last central green lung should remain.
The application was refused by 11 votes with one in support and one abstention.
WA/2020/0965 – Erection of a building to provide a 64 Bed Care home including 16 Community Beds together with a building to provide 14 Health Workers accommodation units with access from Knowle Lane, associated parking and ancillary work (revision of WA/2018/1966 and as amplified by letters received 14/12/2020 and 15/12/2020). at Land South Of John Wiskar Drive On East Side Of Knowle Lane, Cranleigh
It is acknowledged the scheme would bring some public benefits, in the form of care home provision, housing provision with an affordable element for key workers and 16 care home beds which would be let at a lower rate for selected residents of the Cranleigh area. Page 27 Agenda Item 8.2 The scale of the public benefits proposed, however, would be lessened from the previously refused care home scheme, where there was an identified need for public beds and informal partnership with the Integrated Care Partnership (ICP). The public benefit would also be substantially reduced from that which would have been provided by the previously consented Village Hospital and Health Centre scheme, which would have provided essential infrastructure of significant benefit to a large number of people. It is not considered, overall, that the public benefits of the scheme would outweigh the substantial resultant harm to the ASVI and the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside. On this basis, it is recommended that permission be refused.
. Planning Policy Constraints ASVI (Area of Strategic Visual Importance) Long Distance Footpath (Downs Link) Countryside Beyond Green Belt (outside any defined settlement) Bridleway Within 20 metres of River Bank Flood Zones 2 and 3
Integrated Care Partnership
Continues to object to the proposal in response to the amended information with regards to how community Page 36 beds would be provided. – The ICP has withdrawn their support for the uptake of the community beds and they would not provide a significant community benefit which is such as to outweigh the harm to the ASVI. – The terms of the legal agreement as to how the beds would be allocated has not been shared with the PC. – No infrastructure contributions provided. – The terms of the community benefit could be varied and removed by the applicant. – There would be a negative impact on residents of John Wiskar Drive. – Flood risk, noise and disturbance and highway safety concern
Cranleigh Parish Council
Continues to object to the proposal in response to the amended information with regards to how community Page 36 beds would be provided. – The ICP has withdrawn their support for the uptake of the community beds and they would not provide a significant community benefit which is such as to outweigh the harm to the ASVI. – The terms of the legal agreement as to how the beds would be allocated has not been shared with the PC. – No infrastructure contributions provided. – The terms of the community benefit could be varied and removed by the applicant. – There would be a negative impact on residents of John Wiskar Drive. – Flood risk, noise and disturbance and highway safety concerns. As the owner of adjacent land and beneficiary of a restrictive covenant, concerns expressed in relation to impact on the ASVI, offsite cumulative flooding impact, cumulative transport impact and environmental pollution (e.g. noise, light and smell pollution).
Surrey County Council (SCC) has confirmed that it would no longer be able to commit to block booking beds due to the Discharge to Access scheme. SCC has confirmed that the beds would not be free at the point of access. The Parish Council can no longer support the proposal. The accommodation block would not be linked to the care home only (ancillary) and on this basis cannot be supported.
The inability of the existing water infrastructure to meet the needs of the development has been identified and a condition is therefore recommended to ensure this is addressed. – Drains passing through the site – these cannot be built over – I
The Difference in the previous proposals.
The primary differences between the current proposal and that application are; – The quantum of development has been reduced by 1439m2, including a reduction in the footprint of the proposal by 856m2. – The previous application proposed an 80- bed care home with a provision of 20 community beds and 26 health care worker rooms. The current application proposes a 64-bed care home with 16 community beds and 14 key worker accommodation units. – The key workers’ accommodation block is now proposed to be positioned in the northern part of the site rather than the southern part. – The parking is now proposed centrally, unlike the previous proposal where it was divided into that serving the care home and the accommodation block. – The health care worker accommodation previously proposed was not self-contained, with single bedrooms and communal cooking facilities. Page 47 It is now proposed that all accommodation units would be fully self-contained and with 4 two-bedroom units. This would represent a material change of use within the proposal from sui generis as previously to C3 (housing) as currently proposed.
Integrated Care Partnership
The ICP, which had made a minimum 5-year commitment to block-book beds within the previous scheme, but is no longer able to make this commitment. This is due to developments in how care is provided, such as a move to assessing people’s care needs in their own homes following discharge from hospital, rather than within ‘step down’ beds in care homes. As mentioned above, there are other potential considerations around a Local Authority allocating beds only to Cranleigh residents.
Retained Policy C5 of the Local Plan (2002) states that: “The Council will seek to ensure that the appearance of Areas of strategic Visual Importance, as shown on the proposals map, is maintained and enhanced. Development inconsistent with this objective will not be permitted.” Page 52 The proposed development is accompanied by a Landscape and Visual Assessment. This concludes that “The proposal site is well contained by trees, settlement and topography and there will be minimal visual intrusion beyond the site itself with no effects to the views from the wider rural landscape which affect the character and setting of Cranleigh.”
it is not considered that the visual harm to the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside of the scheme is substantially reduced by this reduction in scale. Both proposed buildings would continue to be extremely large and elongated in scale, at 60m in length on both axis for the care home and 37m by 20m for the healthcare worker accommodation block. Further, the built footprint would continue to be very spread across the site with little meaningful negative space remaining due to the necessary separation of the two large buildings and the cruciform design of the proposed care home. In the officers’ view, notwithstanding that the floor area of the proposed building on site would be reduced from that of the consented 3 storey hospital building, the current proposal would actually have a greater visual impact given the proposed spread of built form across the site. The siting of access points, in a central position to the site off Knowle Lane for vehicles and near to the entrance to John Wiskar Drive, is a continuation of the previous scheme in terms of visual impact. The car parking was previously separated into two areas for the different uses but in the current proposal is indicated to be sited centrally within the site in the form of one large car park. This would result in a very significant expanse of hard surface concentrated in one area, which would be visually detrimental. Page 53 The overall visual impression of the proposed built footprint and layout would be one of the significant urbanisation of what is a greenfield site outside of the developed area boundary.
It is acknowledged that the tree line does limit some views in some directions of the site but it does not provide total screening and the development would remain highly visually perceptible from Knowle Lane, including from the access road. Whilst the playing field use of the site has now ceased and been re-accommodated, the site continues to adjoin and visually read as part of the adjacent open parkland which is both an appropriately open countryside use and containment of the landscape sprawl of the settlement. The development of the site would substantially impinge upon this currently tranquil space. Nighttime illumination of the site would represent a substantial change from the current nighttime darkness which would be perceptible from some distance. The site is within a designated Area of Strategic Visual Importance (ASVI). The applicants indicate that they disagree that the area should be identified as such and indicate that they consider the designation out of date. However, this is a Local Plan designation and is extant and not outdated. The buildings would undoubtedly lead to harm to the open nature of the site and lead to harm to the ASVI. The urbanising impacts of 4,741m2 of development up to 12m in height would be highly perceptible and represent a substantial change from the current greenfield status. This would be exacerbated but the sheer scale of the two buildings proposed. It would be highly perceptible for users of the Downs Link, which is the major key public footpath within the borough. Whilst the re-siting of the accommodation block to the north may reduce clear views from the playing field, it would make it more visually prominent from Knowle Lane and the Downs Link, which are both key public views. On this basis, it is considered that the development would continue to lead to landscape harm
You can listen to the meeting here.