Criticism for plans to convert care home into supported housing

PUBLISHED: 16:09 12 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:09 12 August 2020

High Dene care home. Picture: George Ryan

High Dene care home. Picture: George Ryan

George Ryan

Controversial plans to convert a former care home into supported housing have been opposed by town councillors.

High Dene care home. Picture: George RyanHigh Dene care home. Picture: George Ryan

Lowestoft Town Council’s planning and environment committee raised several concerns about the proposal for the former High Dene care home on Park Road, which closed in 2015.

A total of 19 public objections had been submitted prior to the council’s meeting, with common concerns including fears of an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour, a negative effect on the local community and increased noise levels.

Although the application states the site is outside the flat saturation zone, nearby residents claimed the area was oversaturated for one-person accommodation and supported housing.

Speaking at the meeting, held on Zoom on Tuesday night, councillor Alice Taylor said: “The flat saturation zone is about the noise, parking, bins, and too many people crowded into too small an area and I am not comfortable that this accommodates that.

“By changing the type of people living there, they might be doing the same thing inside the building but outside is going to be affected.”

The change-of-use proposal would not see any material changes to the building, with the 13 bedrooms retained.

Andy Pearce, town councillor, said: “It is not a designated saturation zone but residents have said they believe it is close to the threshold to be one.

“Some of the objectors have young children and one of the proposals is for people with ‘complex needs’.

“Because the applicant won’t be drawn on a definition of ‘complex needs’, that has heightened the fears in residents’ minds of what it means and the risks it poses.

“There is a neighbour who has written in flagging her safeguarding concerns.

“If the new clientele were people with ‘complex needs’ that could mean anything and everything and there might be a more overt risk to people and the people themselves because if these are people who struggle to live independently, whether that is addiction issues or learning difficulties or mental health issues that mean they could be easily led by other people, then we have a statutory duty to prevent crime and disorder.

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“The effect on the neighbourhood and the people living there needs to be considered.”

The application, from Ipswich-based Mavam, comes after similar plans for five properties in Cleveland Road were rejected by East Suffolk Council last year.

In a supporting statement lodged with the application, a spokesperson for Mavam and the Stone Foundation, who will manage the site, said: “This is to enable individuals to gain, or regain, independent living skills, emotional wellbeing and confidence in a compassionate and supportive environment.

“Support to residents living in the house will be provided by Mavam, who employ an experienced, skilled and dedicated staff team on a 24/7 basis.

“There will always be staff at the property day and night.

“Residents come from all walks of life - they don’t put people in boxes - as long as they have a need which Mavam can support.

“Mavam welcomes the opportunity to involve the community and the neighbourhood in helping our residents lead more independent lives.”

Currently, the site has four parking spaces at the front of the building, with councillors and residents concerned this would be inadequate for staff and those living at the site.

Councillor Sue Barnard said: “There is already a high demand for parking there with the methodist church, doctor’s surgery, Abigail Court and Harleston House.

“It is already quite difficult to park there.”

Recommending the council’s objection to the plans, which was passed unanimously, the committee’s chair, councillor Peter Knight, said: “The needs of the residents are complex but there is no explanation of how that is managed for the benefits of the residents to minimise crime and other such effects.

“There is insufficient bin storage, and we have concerns about whether the parking is sufficient.

“We believe it would exceed the saturation zone in the area.”

The town council’s recommendation will be sent to East Suffolk Council’s planning committee, who will decide the application at a future meeting.

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