So where exactly is the community benefit in return for the loss of one of the last areas of open green spaces left in the centre of Cranleigh?
That was the question that village leaders asked themselves at an Extraordinary Virtual Meeting of Cranleigh Parish Council on Monday.
Councillors gathered online to consider yet another set of plans from Cranleigh Village Health Trust (CVHT) to build a 64-bed Private Care Home – which included 16 community beds – and a residential accommodation block of 14 flats for health-workers. A charity that over 20 years collected millions of pounds of public money to build a replacement Hospital/Day Hospital with hospital beds. But which – due to support being withdrawn by local health and social care bodies now wants to fulfil its charitable objectives – in a different way.
Before debating the issue which has driven a stake through the heart of Cranleigh the council wanted to hear villagers’ views – FOR or AGAINST?
Clerk Beverly Bell gave a slick slide presentation outlining the complicated recent history of the issues before them.
These are included here: Slides – Cranleigh Parish Council
First to speak was Andy Webb who heads the Campaign Group he founded to stop the development and return former publicly-owned land to the village.
He told councillors that the charity had underestimated the community’s opposition to the project. Having read the applicant’s Agent’s report, it was clear there were NO guaranteed benefits to the community, and if planning permission was granted, the community beds could eventually become part of the Private Care Home. The junction proposed onto Knowle Lane, combined with accesses to local businesses – (including Sainsbury’s Depot Marks & Spencers) was dangerous for both existing traffic and future construction traffic. The loss of valuable green space and the noise and light pollution to the neighbours in Wiskar Drive were strong reasons to refuse. He reprimanded the CVHT for failing to meet the parish council and the public.
Said Mr Webb.
“I can assure both this parish council and the CVHT and anyone else who may be listening that we – the public – are, and always have been, open to having a polite and civilised meeting with them – and we do not take kindly to the suggestion that it would be otherwise.”
CVHT had blamed the parish council by letter for its failure to meet them before re-submitting their application. A claim that has upset parishioners, the parish clerk and councillors. All of whom voted to meet them in public, offering them privacy for any commercially confidential information. Their behaviour has been seen as reprehensible towards a key partner – who provided public land valued at circa £250,000 in exchange for agricultural land and a peppercorn pound.
Retired Nurse and resident Sue Mellor claimed the community beds, in their present form, were no longer needed. There were now 24 extra beds consented at the Knowle Park Nursing Home nearby.
She asked? Is it now possible for the parish council to re-claim the land?
She said health bodies, all of whom had withdrawn their support – were now proposing a very different model of health-care outside nursing homes, in a bid to keep patient safer at home.
During the lengthy debate, Cllr Richard Coles said many of the council’s previous concerns remained. Changes proposed different access for users of the community beds, which would now be down to the CVHT. However, the beds would be the same as available elsewhere – they were no longer free and it would be up to individuals to pay at means-tested local authority rates.
“This is a greenfield site where there is increased traffic. It doesn’t seem that the benefits to the community are any better now than from previous schemes- in fact, I think it has got worse.”
Documents on the Waverley Planning Portal show that the Circa £7m private nursing home with 64 beds would charge residents £1,200/£1, 310 per week. WA/2020/0965. http://planning360.waverley.gov.uk/planning/search-applications?civica.query
The 16 community beds would be circa £725 p.w. IF, the local authority will buy them? Surrey Heartlands Health Trust and the county council pulled out of the scheme 3 months ago – saying they now want a different model of care for their clients in future. It wants to move away from nursing home-based healthcare and support Cranleigh people in their own homes.
A £2.5m accommodation block of 14, flats proposed for health-care workers, mainly employed by the private nursing home would be let for £195 62 pence p.w for one bed and £253.15 p w for 2-beds. But no 106 legal agreement currently exists?
A fact which, Cllr Rowena Tyler claimed, was not particularly affordable for an average health-care worker and similar properties, with gardens, were available on Rightmove in the area at a similar rent!
CVHT – would expect a 7% – ‘developer’s profit – from the residential investment together with a 10% management cost.No allowance had been made for any S.106 contributions albeit it is known that a travel plan will be required for both the care home and the accommodation block. Neither is there any Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). Money towards making improvements to Cranleigh’s infrastructure as resulting from the impact of the development.
Cllr Nigel Sanctuary’s assessment of the community beds was no longer (as has been claimed by the charity) ‘free at the point of access.’ Both Waverley’s and CVHT’s Viability Statements were complicated, and sometimes vague. The Charity’s lacked any clear, legal, or binding commitments. He also failed to understand the figures put on the value of the land. But his major and overriding concern was “future usage of those community beds”
“This is on the cusp of viability, and we could be left with a white elephant in future. There is no certainty over a future operator – all we know is – that we just don’t know?”
Rowena Tyler claimed there was no evidence on the sustainability of the project – or what would happen to the Paddock Field, should permission be refused. Local people also wanted to know who the ‘Benefactor/s’ referred to in the documents actually were?
Cllr Dave Nicholas – said his previous concerns were already well documented. ‘Overdevelopment of the site.’
“However, we just cannot ignore the strength of opposition from the community – most people who speak to me – just don’t want it. The risks of embarking on the charity’s present chosen pathway which says- let’s sort out the detail later, could come back to haunt you.’
Cllr Rob Denton’s concerns were the separation of the residential accommodation block from the Care Home, which he said:
Cllr Marc Scully agreed. “This project just doesn’t stack up – there are insufficient funds for this to work in the present fluctuating market.’
Cllr Cole said he didn’t wish to object on the basis of the Viability Assessment, but on the lack of legal agreements, community infrastructure levy, and the loss of green space on a site outside the settlement zone of Cranleigh, in an area designated as an ASVI – (Area of Strategic Visual Importance.) He also agreed with Cllr Taylor’s concerns about the uncompetitive rents proposed for the flats.
Chairman Liz Townsend said the parish council could not rely on others tying up the loose ends of the proposed scheme later and was opposed to the accommodation block not being ancillary to the Care Home.
“What we are talking about here is an exceptional site where development can only be approved in exceptional circumstances. This is mini-Green Belt and an ASVI, where a replacement hospital, supported by the community, was once proposed. We have to ask ourselves – is, this proposal for a private care home and residential development for the benefit of our community, when there are lots of affordable and shared ownership homes being built here in Cranleigh?
It was finally agreed that unlike on previous occasions when as a major key stakeholder in the hospital project, the parish council had ‘not supported the scheme.’ On this occasion, – Cllr Taylor proposed that the council should go further and OBJECT, and provide Waverley planners with a host of reasons why. She was seconded by Cllr Jeacock who said: “This application must be refused.”
The recommendation to OBJECT was agreed by 8 votes. (Cllr Richard Cole was AGAINST.) Cllr Townsend abstained saying she would save her vote for the Waverley planning meeting which is expected to be on February 24th. Members of the public have contacted us here at the Waverley Web surprised – that on every occasion that the CVHT planning application – or any other matter concerning this development has come before the council – Cllr George Worthington has Abstained from voting, but has not declared an interest?
May we respectfully suggest – Don’t put your son on the council, Mrs Worthington – until he can either declare an interest or jump off the fence?
Q for the future? Has Cllr Hannah Nicholson jumped ship?
Waverley’s Viability Assessment concludes.
In summary, we can conclude the development does not generate a surplus over the benchmark land value, and thus the number of open market care home beds is less than is necessary to provide full funding to the community beds and health worker accommodation. The balance of funds required has been pledged by CVHT and local benefactors who wish to see the scheme proceed and the public benefit from these facilities be realised.