Published: 06:00, 26 June 2020
Plans to transform a Kent care home into 20 new flats have been met with a mixed reaction.
The divisive planning application has been submitted to Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) to convert Sandbanks Care Home, which sits on the corner of St Andrew's Road and Coast Road in Littlestone, Romney Marsh, into a mix of one- and two-bed residential flats.
Thirteen would be built within the existing home, while a new four-storey building would be erected in the grounds and contain seven two-bed apartments.
The proposal comes from applicant Leo Griggs, of Livingston Homes and of Alliance Building Company Contracts Ltd, who is also redeveloping the Royal Victoria Hospital in Folkestone into new homes.
Design work, including two new CGIs of the proposed development, has come from award-winning Hollaway architects - also behind the plans to regenerate the run down Leas Pavilion in Folkestone.
An extra 10 car parking spaces are being proposed and some of the homes would be social housing.
But many neighbours have submitted objections to the scheme on the council's planning portal.
The size of the new build, pressure on surrounding infrastructure and loss of care home beds are all listed as reasons against it.
One neighbour said: "I strongly object to the proposed plan, it is entirely out of keeping with the locality.
"To build a four-storey building consisting of seven flats on the Coast Road amongst two-storey houses would be a hideous intrusion and totally inappropriate adjacent to a conservation area.
"The pressure on this unique area of potentially 68 new residents - their cars, visitors, deliveries etc - would be overwhelming, aside from the lack of suitable infrastructure to sustain such an expansion of housing."
Another commented: "I strongly object to this proposal on a number of grounds. One, the loss of a care home in a building generally highly suited for its purpose is regrettable and will require replacement in due course due to demographic pressures.
"Two, the introduction of social housing in this locality is misconceived. The local facilities are not adequate for such housing and the number of people in one building is completely at odds with the character of the area.
"Three, the cramming of an overbearing four-storey new-build block of seven flats between the existing development and the sea is a gross overdevelopment of the plot."
A third called the development "another ridiculously overpriced housing construction".
New Romney Town Council (NRTC) is also against the project and is recommending the application be refused.
A letter from the authority to FHDC states the proposal for Sandbanks ignores several council policies, including what materials are to be used, the loss of privacy to neighbouring properties and insufficient parking spaces.
NRTC also objects to the planned balconies which will "reduce the privacy for the neighbouring dwellings" and says the plans will "not maintain the visual quality of the street".
But there are also some people in support of the application.
One consultee added: "Lovely, more housing is needed in the area. Whilst it will help to renovate this area."
Another said: "The existing care home is past its sell by date and is great to see the residents are being moved to an upgraded and modernised care home over the road at Madeira Lodge.
"The Hollaway architects' extension design also looks superb for the seafront."
Sandbanks, run by Belmont Healthcare, will be the second home to shut in the area in three years following the closure of Romney Cottage Residential Care Home, in Madeira Road, Littlestone.
But Belmont Healthcare says all residents from Sandbanks will move to its other care home, Madeira Lodge, which is also in Littlestone and is currently undergoing a substantial refurbishment which includes a 20-bed extension.
The sale of Sandbanks will help facilitate the expansion at Madeira Lodge. This move could take place at the end of this year.
A spokesman for Belmont Healthcare said: "An important part of this is to ensure we offer our residents a great environment which is future proofed.
"Sandbanks Care Home will not meet these standards required in the future as the current care home does not offer full ensuite facilities etc which we will be able to offer at the new site which is walking distance away.
"This is going to create a better environment and create more opportunities for people.
"This should not be described or seen as a care home closure because it isn't - it's a redeployment to better facilities required for modern day care.
"It has been disappointing to see the number of objections and I can only see that this is down to not understanding the full picture as this development offers our residents a much-improved location in which to be cared for with improved facilities.
'It has been disappointing to see the number of objections and I can only see that this is down to not understanding the full picture...'
"The new development facilitates this by selling the plot to fund the development.
"As Sandbanks is not fit for purpose for the future of care, the building and land will ultimately need to be used for something, as will only lay dormant.
"We have decided to sell the site to a developer who is looking to also add value to the community by offering a well designed and thought out project which offers accommodation for all with a number of social housing opportunities within the scheme, this was something we felt was positive as made the housing accessible to all in what could be a wonderful setting.
"We trust this adds comfort to those with concerns, Belmont Healthcare have discussed at length with our teams and family members who are excited at the prospect of the improvements and looking forward to the future."
Similarly Mr Griggs added that the scheme had many benefits.
He said: "By this care home closing and the other one expanding it will result in an increase in beds. Kent County Council has reported to us that Sandbanks isn't fit for purpose.
"We always fill our quota of affordable housing and we think it is a positive to provide housing outside of Folkestone and the town centre where all housing is centred, so going to the Marsh is a positive for us.
"We're also partnering with an award-winning architect. We think the design is suitable for the road and does respect the border lines."
The application was received by FHDC in May and the decision could come as early as July.
However, NRTC has requested that the application goes to the planning committee.