Councillors take a stand to protect vulnerable residents

DM17840386.jpg Community unites to save Whyke Lodge care home, Chichester, from becoming housing. Staff, residents and relatives outside the home. Photo by Derek Martin; SUS-170815-200239008
DM17840386.jpg Community unites to save Whyke Lodge care home, Chichester, from becoming housing. Staff, residents and relatives outside the home. Photo by Derek Martin; SUS-170815-200239008

Elderly people with dementia were given a ‘potentially life-saving’ boost today when plans to turn their care home into housing was rejected by councillors.

Operators of the Whyke Lodge care home, in Whyke Road, Chichester, passionately objected to its closure, with the landlord submitting plans for six new homes on the site.

Chichester District Council’s planning committee unanimously rejected the application on Wednesday (October 11).

Speaking after the decision, the home’s business manager said: “We are delighted and amazed. I want to thank everyone who supported us.

“Potentially what has happened here today has saved the lives of 20 residents and the jobs of 20 staff. That is amazing.”

The home’s future appeared bleak, with planning officers recommending approval of the plans, which included partial demolition of the building.

Officers said the council’s local plan did not have any policies which protected care homes from closure – though the committee heard a review was under consideration.

But the committee believed policies protecting employment sites and community assets in both its local plan and national guidelines could be applied.

Chichester West councillor Richard Plowman said: “My argument is I think we can reject this on the basis this is loss of employment in terms of 18 qualified people who have gone through a lot of training.”

Andrew Frost, head of planning services, said local plan policies relating to employment were intended for businesses like offices, light industrial units, storage and distribution and similar uses.

He said officers had gone through similar thought processes as councillors.

Councillor Pam Dignum spoke from the gallery against the plans.

She noted there were conditions relating to safety of bats and hedgehogs but nothing to protect residents until new homes were found.