…To its cry of – “We are NOT DEVELOPERS!”
Chairman Dr Robin Fawkner-Corbett rocked up to the monthly parish council meeting to acquaint village leaders with Cranleigh Village Health Trust’s (CVHT) latest cunning plan. It plans yet another development, in its war of attrition, to be submitted to Waverley Council by June 9. It will sit in tandem with an appeal lodged against a previous refusal for a larger scheme. However, he said he could not ‘yet’ share any documents with village leaders. Power to the people of the eastern villages as they joined Waverley Planners to give a controversial Care Home development the order of the boot.
You try refusing that one with an appeal hanging over your heads Waverley Planners, particularly during a Coronavirus epidemic, when planning meetings are held virtually and there is no Joint Planning Committee!
Was that just what the Dr ordered?
Rumours have been rife for weeks that after being thwarted by Waverley Planners in BC – Life before Covid – the Charity was gearing up for yet another go at building on the former parish council playing field in Knowle Lane that it snaffled for £1 from villagers.
The Dr said a planning application was to be submitted for a 64-bed Care Home – 16 community beds – and an apartment block of 14 individual one and two-bedroom self-contained apartments. The scheme, amounting to a 20% reduction would run in tandem with an Appeal for an 80-bed Care Home, 20 community beds, and a 26- bed apartment block that was REFUSED in December 2019. The Trust’s previous aspirations for a replacement hospital had been overtaken by changes in the health system and an increase in the elderly population, he claimed.
Surprisingly, there was no mentioned of the recent planning consent for 25 extra beds granted to Caring Homes Healthcare Group’s Knowle Park Nursing Home 200 yards away in Knowle Lane just a few months ago?
Neither did he say if the Trust’s partner remains HC- One, reported nationally to be in dire straits! In its latest financial accounts, the national care home operator said: ” if the current worst predictions on occupancy and payroll costs proved correct there would be a “significant impact” on its profitability and cashflows and it would require bank support on deferring loan repayments.”
Adding: “The directors consider the specific downside scenario impact of Covid-19 on the group’s occupancy levels and cash flows to be so significant that it represents a material uncertainty that may cast significant doubt on the group’s . . . ability to continue as a going concern.””
Dr Fawkner-Corbett said there had been “important changes to the Board of Trustees with the resignations of Nick Vrijland and Andy Leahy.’ “We are now delighted to welcome new Trustee Richard Everitt – who brings with him a wealth of business experience.” The Cranleigh resident was appointed on March 3 2020.
The mutter in the village gutter is that the developer duo, currently building 265 homes in Cranleigh – with other developments including at David Manns’ in the pipeline, resigned from the charity to pursue their business interests without charitable constraints!
Dr F-C hoped the new scheme would overcome previous objections of “over massing” as it would have a lesser impact on Wiskar Drive. Though reminded the council that the 2006 consented application (which the Trust allowed to lapse) was a larger building on three floors – larger than that refused in 2018. He said the Trust was obliged to lodge an appeal bearing in mind the large sums of public money raised.
However as always, economical with the truth the Dr failed to mention that the original scheme was for a replacement hospital, health centre – and a day hospital and it was for that purpose that the money was raised.
Mr Everitt read Trustee John Bainbridge’s statement as he had been taken ill shortly before the meeting. This would dispel some urban myths about how much money had been fundraised and a ransom strip around the Beryl Harvey Memorial Field. This was an agreement between the parish council of which he (JB) was then a member, and the landowner (Nick Vrijland), which he claimed, was a “win, win for the community.” A transaction completed in 2010 and which had nothing to do with the Trust.
There had been no fundraising since 2006, though the Trust had continued to accept donations. However, the £2m figure quoted on social media was a myth. The Trust had raised only £950,000, far too little to build a replacement hospital. £630,000 of which had been spent on planning applications and professional advice. Included were significant items of expenditure including the ‘Keep Beds Open’ campaign, the levelling and laying of the new football pitch (£90,000) and the improved access and new footpath works in Knowle Lane (£98,000). He said the Trust had been advised by its professional team that the reasons for the 2018 refusal were – ‘Not sustainable,” which is why it would be lodging an appeal.
These works in Knowle Lane were part of a condition of the consent for the Knowle Country Park, part of the Vrijland and Leahy developments in the park, and the (KPI) development at West Cranleigh Nurseries in Alfold Road.
However, there was no mention of the £500,000 paid out in salaries – or fundraising generated in the Cranleigh Village Hospital Shop which continued until its closure in 2018.
Dr Corbett hoped the parish would look at the latest scheme in a new light, with an open mind and consider the significant benefits for the community. There would be no physical Public Exhibition of the plans due to the Coronavirus epidemic. It would be conducted “virtually” on its website. However, the Trust would be happy to answer any questions, if they were received in writing.
Parish councillors looked like rabbits caught in a set of headlights during the presentation. One said afterwards she was “dumbfounded” believing the Trust was coming back with something that the parish council – a former partner of CVHT who had made the land deal for a hospital possible – on the community’s behalf, could at last work on together to achieve something everyone would back.
Chairman Liz Townsend said her first response was “disappointment.” at the Trust’s announcement of its appeal against the original scheme. She had hoped the charity would work more closely with the parish council, which is the community, and which had many concerns and objections in the past and had hoped for a real “community project” that everyone could help to shape and get behind. She recognises, there was strong feeling on both sides. In response to Dr Corbett’s argument that the parish council had refused in the past to sit down with the Trust, Cllr Townsend refuted this saying council rules did not permit it to sit down with ANY developers – regardless of who they were.
“We have to meet in public and deliberate in public, we cannot and will not meet developers behind closed doors in private to discuss applications.”
Dr Corbett said:
“This Charity has been labelled by some as developers, we have never seen ourselves as such.”
There will be a public consultation on the Charity’s website in two weeks.
Background of the 20-year Saga, which has proved to be a toxic chapter in Cranleigh’s history.
• First it was a replacement for the old Cottage Hospital, closed down by local health chiefs. A building with 14 beds, a Day Hospital Physiotherapy Unit and `Outpatients department. This hospital still operates now with improved services including an X-ray department and Midwifery Hub.
• Then it was a replacement Cottage Hospital and a new GP surgery – with ambulatory services – a Day Hospital, outpatients and with minor injuries.
• It then morphed into an 80-bed nursing home, with 20 community beds for ‘local people’
• Then it mushroomed into an even larger ‘Care Home ‘ – with 20 community beds and a bolted on a block of apartments for local health workers.
Then … wait for it … wait for it…
• They wanted a Care Home, with 80-beds for HC-One; 20 community beds AND an apartment block with 28 bedsits for health-workers from anywhere in the Primary Care Trust, or is that now Surrey Heartlands area!
And so the Great Cranleigh Hospital/Care Saga goes on… and on…Ad nauseamwww.cranleighospital.org