A previously-refused care project that has seen a war of words erupt between the developer and a local councillor, and another politician argue part of the scheme would “resemble a prison”, will go before Warrington’s planning committee this week.
Developer New Care, part of the McGoff Group, is proposing to build a care home, a children’s day care centre, and elderly care apartments on the site of the former Lymm Hotel, bordered by the Bridgewater Canal, Statham Avenue, Statham Close, and Whitbarrow Road.
A previous application for this site by New Care for a larger scheme featuring a 72-bed care home, a 120-capacity nursery, and 52 retirement flats was refused by Warrington Council in April this year, meaning the latest application is significantly smaller.
The previous application was rejected by committee for being “overbearing” and causing harm through “a lack of parking, servicing, and sustainable transport”.
Under the current application, the existing hotel will be demolished and replaced with a three-storey 66-bed care home, a three-storey block of 45 retirement and care apartments, and a two-storey nursery.
Ahead of the scheme going to committee, New Care chief executive Chris McGoff had become embroiled in a war of words with local Lib Dem councillor Ian Marks, who said McGoff was “a greedy developer completely ignoring the community in which the site is located”.
McGoff, pictured below, hit back by claiming Cllr Marks was being “highly offensive” and “completely hypocritical”.
“He is playing politics at the expense of potentially depriving the delivery of much needed fit-for-purpose facilities in an area where there is a proven and well documented shortage and in our view is potentially technically misrepresenting the application,” argued McGoff.
New Care’s application has attracted a significant number of objections from local residents, where a number of neighbours have raised concerns over traffic and pressure on local services.
More than 180 local residents have written to object to the scheme, criticising its “high density” while others claimed Lymm “[does] not want or need another care home”.
Along with Cllr Marks, fellow Liberal Democrat Cllr Anna Fradgley has also criticised the project; she claimed it was “overdeveloped, overbearing [and] poorly designed” and said the care home would “resemble a prison or army barracks”.
Cllr Fradgley also argued the scheme’s parking provision would be 51 spaces short of the council’s agreed standards.
However, the council’s highways department has not objected to the scheme, while planners said the re-use of a previously developed site was acceptable under the council’s core strategy.
Both the applicant and the council agree that the hotel on the site is no longer financially viable with an average room occupancy rate of 60%, and is likely to cease trading in the near future. It is currently run by Macdonald Hotels, which according to New Care is supportive of the plans.
The loss of the hotel will lead to 12 full-time and 21 part-time jobs ceasing to exist, but the new development is expected to create 47 full-time and six part-time jobs instead.
In terms of the design, planners argued the site was already occupied by “some of the most substantial buildings in Lymm”, meaning “the principle of substantial buildings at the site” was established.
At nearly 80,000 sq ft, planners said the development was “well-placed and proportionate in layout for the size of the site”, while the reduced size of the project compared to the previous application “does not amount to site cramming or overdevelopment”.
In terms of parking and highways, the planners’ report said the site actually exceeds the amount of parking required, given the smaller requirement needed for care home developments. New Care is proposing 47 car parking spaces for the apartments which planners said “far exceeds” the requirement of 33.
Concluding, the planners’ report argued: “The proposal entails the redevelopment of a brownfield site within a village, and would make more effective use of the site in the land-use terms set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, and where there is a likelihood that the existing hotel use is uneconomic.
“The site has a long-standing, active use – and its eventual re-development should be supported as a matter of principle.
“The potential benefits of meeting a known demand for elderly accommodation and for children’s day care on adjacent sites is acknowledged as a potential benefit of locating such uses close to one another, where interaction between young and old would be encouraged.
Warrington’s development management committee meets on Wednesday 12 December.