Major housing opportunity missed at Whiteley Village in Elmbridge as permission rejected for sheltered housing for older people
Walton on Thames 27th September 2018 Whiteley Homes Trust is hugely disappointed that its application to build additional extra-care homes for up to 120 pensioners of limited financial means has been rejected by an independent inspector, appointed by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
The Trust is the provider of over 90% of the enhanced sheltered housing and extra-care for older people in Elmbridge* and has over 100 people currently on its waiting list, making the proposed development a vital expansion on its current support to over 500 residents living on the Trust’s 225-acre site.
This rejection at Appeal came after Elmbridge Council’s officers, with whom the Trust had been working to devise a suitable scheme for over 2 years, had recommended the scheme for approval. Had planning consent been granted the Trust would have created vital income to build the 60 additional charitable almshouses designed for dual occupancy for the borough’s poorest pensioners, through the construction and sale of 40 private leasehold extra-care apartments.
In his report, the Independent Inspector cited the exemplary work of Whiteley Homes Trust and the growing lack of suitable housing locally: “There is a clear local need in Elmbridge for all forms of elderly persons’ accommodation, and indeed this need is both urgent and growing. It is important in the public interest that solutions are found, and the needs of older people met. The two linked developments now proposed would help to meet a significant proportion of this need. Moreover, they would do so in a way that would address both ends of the market, and with a generous 60:40 split in favour of the affordable sector. They would also cater for a very wide range of individual needs, in terms of physical ability, dependency and personal care requirements. In addition, the new accommodation would be provided and managed by a charitable organisation with an exemplary record in their field, who clearly have a willingness to innovate, and a desire to achieve the highest standards. These considerations weigh heavily in favour of the appeal.”
The inspector concluded, however, that these merits were not sufficiently special to outweigh the impact on green belt, and were not “limited” infill, the appeal was dismissed on that basis.
Chandra McGowan, Chief Executive Whiteley Homes Trust, comments: “Not only is this a tragedy, given the lack of affordable housing across the country, it is also a lost opportunity for joined-up care and support for older people, something which both Surrey County Council Adult Services and the local NHS are grappling to fund. For example, in January this year the estimated saving target for Surrey County Council was £100 m.
“Whiteley Homes Trust’s proven ability to provide support in this type of community setting is hugely beneficial to individuals, incredibly efficient in terms of public resources, and has a proven impact on longevity**. We already have existing infrastructure in terms of facilities, staffing and expertise, and the land to use for more quality accommodation- an asset we are being prevented from using to maximum benefit for public good. In a time of increasing austerity in the provision of state support this makes the judgment even more onerous on local taxpayers.
“We had previously identified with Elmbridge which parts of the estate we could use for infill, but this seems to have had little bearing on the final decision and adds to the inconsistencies in decision, despite our fundamental objectives being the same. I will be discussing this with Rob Moran Chief Executive of Elmbridge Borough Council. Interestingly, we were given permission last year to develop a new care hub and convert an old nursing home to extra-care facailites, both being within our grounds and therefore in the green belt. The building of these fabulous new facilities is underway and will provide hugely beneficial services when they open next Spring, to the village and also more widely across the Elmbridge community. The innovative solutions in the recently rejected planning application were aimed at assisting our ageing population and could have increased support for more, older people of limited means. The decision is even more incoherent and inexplicable given the perilous state of housing, care and support for people who are reliant on state benefits and for a council that is struggling to find solutions to meet the needs of older people.”
The state- of- the- art new Care hub which is under construction (completion Spring 2019) will enable work in partnership with 3rd parties including Surrey University and others to explore and develop technological innovations to support and enhance the lives of residents. The Trust plans to share its learnings through the Whiteley Foundation for Ageing Well for the greater good of society.
With support from a number of sponsors, in 2017 the Trust launched the Whiteley Foundation for Ageing Well with the aim of sharing its knowledge of older people and to learn from others about what it means to live well in later life in the modern world. The Foundation is taking the lead in engaging with others who share its ambition that a long life should also be a good life.
The properties proposed in this appeal would have provided an opportunity to test the best ideas in a real-life environment designed to be ‘future-proofed’, and to compare the results with retro-fitting technology to older properties. The Trust has had initial discussions with the Prince’s Foundation for Building Community and the Almshouse Association with a view to a joint publication of lessons we learn in building Almshouses of the Future.
Elmbridge is one of the most expensive boroughs in the UK with average house prices (Zoopla September 2018) in Weybridge of £899,375, Walton £624,746 and in Esher reaching £1,060,106.
* Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) for Kingston North East Surrey 2016
** Longevity Boost at Whiteley Village – in February 2017, Cass Business School published research showing that people – especially women – living at Whiteley Village enjoy up to 5 extra years of life than the general population.
Media contacts: Anne Kavanagh, Whiteley Homes Trust T: 07966 447 024 firstname.lastname@example.org