Developer defeated in Hale care home planning battle

A long-running fight over the care home on Bankhall Lane looks to have drawn to a close after developer Octopus Healthcare’s planning appeal was dismissed, with some of the region’s prominent property professionals becoming embroiled in the battle.

A public inquiry over the care home, which was refused by Trafford Council in April last year, has now concluded with planning inspector H Baugh-Jones dismissing an appeal over non-determination, while a separate appeal over the planning refusal has now been withdrawn.

The development was knocked back following widespread concerns from residents, planning officers, and Trafford’s CCG, which argued against the scheme’s “lack of focus on delivering affordable, inclusive and patient-centred care” and its location, which objectors argued would not allow residents to “integrate with the local community”.

Objectors who put forward a case at the inquiry, which concluded in the summer, included the Hale and Bollin Residents’ Group; architect Stephen Hodder of Hodder + Partners, and Capital & Centric’s Tim Heatley are both listed as interested parties in the appeal documents.

The 1.4-acre site backs on to green space and the river Bollin, and fronts Bankhall Lane. Under the proposals first put forward by developer Octopus Healthcare, the existing detached house on the site would be knocked down and replaced with a specialist dementia care home.

Following the refusal last year, the developer tried again with a separate planning application, scaling back the scheme to 64 units. According to Octopus’ planner, Savills, 64 units is the minimum required to make the scheme commercially viable; any fewer would mean the staffing costs would be “prohibitively high”. Savills also argued the scheme would “meets# all technical requirements” with the proposal retaining all existing boundary treatments, and would not encroach on undeveloped land around the site.

However, by submitting an appeal for non-determination, Octopus removed the ability of Trafford Council to make a decision on the updated scheme; the council acknowledged there were “continuing officer concerns” over the refreshed plans.

At the inquiry, the inspector said there would be “some benefits” of the scheme but these would be “significantly and demonstrably outweighed by the clear identified harms” the project would bring.

The inspector agreed with objectors’ “compelling” argument that the location of the development was unsuitable for a dementia care home, and again sided with the council over the local demand for care home beds.

While Octopus, advised by HPC, had argued that “below-standard” care home beds should not be included in an assessment of local demand, the council and objectors had argued the opposite. Octopus had argued there was a “considerable statistical shortfall in terms of both registered beds and en-suite accommodation for the elderly across the target area”.

However, the planning inspector said: “The parties’ views diverge on whether the calculations of existing bed spaces should include those with a rating lower than ‘good’ as ascribed by the Care Quality Commission.

“The appellant seeks to discount them from the supply. The CQC ratings are something of a moveable feast as a care home with a below-standard rating may improve prior to its next CQC inspection and it would be logical to conclude that the operator would have an interest in ensuring such improvements.

“Notwithstanding this, even if below standard, those bed spaces still exist, and people have a choice of which home they go into. Such decisions may be based on its geographical location as much as they might have to do with the home’s CQC rating.

“Moreover, there is no evidence before me to indicate that homes falling below the standard are set to close, so those beds should be counted as part of the supply.

“In any case, a home assessed as ‘requires improvement’ may have been rated as such for non-care reasons so the standard of care itself might be perfectly acceptable. For these reasons, I do not agree with the appellant’s approach.”

Planning officers’ concerns around “overdevelopment”, access to the site, and “a failure to preserve and enhance the neighbouring South Hale Conservation Area” were also largely supported by the planning inspector, who said: “In combination with the poor access to the local area around the site, the proposal would not provide an external environment of acceptable usability thereby having a detrimental effect on its residents’ quality of life.”

Another reason for refusal was the impact on protected species; four species of bat were found to roost at the existing buildings on site following ecological surveys, along with great crested newts. However, the planning inspector argued the impact on these species could have been mitigated as part of the planning application.

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The very worst kind of NIMBY is one who actually works in the development game…poacher turned gamekeeper. I hope people take note.

By Lee

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