Plans to demolish an empty Horsham care facility and build a new 80-bed care home were approved by the council on Tuesday.
Planning permission for the Evelyn Lancaster House site, in St Mark’s Lane off North Heath Lane, was granted with members of Horsham District Council’s Development Control North Committee unanimously voting in favour of proposals.
Southern Housing Group closed the building in early 2013 citing ‘decreasing demand’, with Care UK looking to build a new facility offering specialist nursing and dementia care.
Andrew Baldwin (Con, Holbrook East) explained that the land was sold by HDC to Southern Housing Group in the 1980s for £1. Because of this he felt it would not have been right for the housing association to pocket all the money, and after negotiations the council would receive some money to allow a change to the restrictive covenant on the site.
He concluded: “All in all it’s difficult to see how we can oppose it. They are building a nice new modern building but it’s replacing one that’s not fit for purpose.”
Jim Rae (Con, Holbrook East) explained that he and Mr Baldwin had worked hard with West Sussex County Council’s highways department to get in place conditions to limit disruption on St Mark’s Lane and nearby residents as much as possible.
Adrian Kearley, agent for the scheme on behalf of Care UK, told councillors the care home would provide a ‘high quality replacement to best meet the needs of residents and reflect the character of the environment’.
But David Sheldon (Ind, Denne) questioned the loss of the extra care residential facility and said it ‘seems inappropriate to be losing affordable housing’.
Andrew Smith, strategic housing manager at HDC, said it was always difficult to lose affordable housing, but Evelyn Lancaster House was not fit for purpose, and the council had a good programme of extra care accommodation in the pipeline.
Both Malcolm Curnock (LDem, Broadbridge Heath) and Godfrey Newman (LDem, Forest) raised concerns about whether 26 car parking spaces would be sufficient for around 70 staff and visitors to the new care home.
While Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park), leader of the Lib Dem Group at HDC, said she regretted the loss of the affordable homes she welcomed a new purpose built care home for the area.