Planners say no to care village on coast near Torquay

Plans have been refused for a care village for the elderly at a former holiday park in the countryside near Torquay.

Looks to Owl like another example of the wrong development in the wrong place but all the usual arguments deployed.

Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com

Developers wanted to create a retirement community on land at Sladnor Park near Maidencombe.

But Torbay Council’s planning committee voted against the scheme at a meeting on Monday night.

They were told the scheme on land above the coastal village was for 159 self-contained units, described as ‘close care’ and ‘assisted living’, including 11 apartment blocks, with health facilities.

A 10-storey block forming the village core would include a reception area, staff office and accommodation, nursing stations, restaurant and bar, cafe, shop, gym, hair salon, consulting and treatment rooms, laundry, swimming pool and sauna.

The committee voted for refusal after hearing it conflicted with planning policies for the area and would harm the landscape, had poor access and transport links, and would risk flooding and drainage problems.

Proposed site of care village at Sladnor Park, near Torquay

Proposed site of care village at Sladnor Park, near Torquay (Image: English Care Villages)

Backers of the scheme said it would provide much-needed housing for the elderly and support the equivalent of 75 full-time jobs.

Objectors said the plans were in the wrong place and it would add too much pressure to local health services.

They argued the price of the homes would be too high for local people, and would result in wealthy older people coming to Torbay from elsewhere.

Councillors were told people would have to rely on private cars to reach the site off Teignmouth Road, a narrow winding road with an hourly bus service, which went against sustainable transport policies.

The former country estate once held a Victorian manor house, but was later turned into a holiday park with chalets and lodges. The manor house burnt down after the park closed in the 1980s.

Dr Rodney Horder, secretary of Maidencombe Residents’ Association, told the meeting the proposals breached a series of planning policies and should be refused.

He said: “It is the wrong type of development in the wrong place, in violation of numerous development policies, is not sustainable development, and with 227 objections.”

Maidencombe resident Christine Davies, who lives near the site, said the development would increase the risk of flooding for properties in the village below.

Nigel Goodman, of Sladnor Park Road, said the development would have a “devastating impact” on the rural setting of the area.

Retired Torquay GP Dr Vivienne Thorn said all six Torquay GP practices had issued a joint response that they had no capacity to cope with the number of new patients, many of whom would be frail.

Data showed they would need 1,000 GP visits a year, and add further pressure to health services at Torbay Hospital.

Leon Butler, chair of the Torquay Neighbourhood Plan Forum, said he “vehemently” opposed the application, which was “wrong on so many levels”.

Jonathan Rainey, of Pegasus Group, on behalf of English Care Villages and the landowner, told the committee that the benefits of providing housing for older people outweighed any potential harm.

Keith Cockell, chair of English Care Villages, said the scheme would offer choice for older people who wanted to live in the countryside, and would provide essential housing needed in the area.

St Marychurch councillors Hazel Foster and Anne Brooks spoke against the scheme. Cllr Brooks said: “On so many levels, I think the harm caused would outweigh the benefits.”

St Marychurch councillor Ray Hill, a member of the planning committee, proposed refusing the scheme.

He highlighted difficulty accessing local GPs, and said the application conflicted with the local plan and neighbourhood plan. Councillors voted eight to one for refusal.

The committee heard that planning permission for a 188-unit retirement village had been granted in 2006, then updated in 2008, but the council’s view was that work had not started within three years and the permission had lapsed. The applicant claimed it had started work on an access road, and has appealed against the council’s refusal to allow it to complete the original scheme.