Care home development allowed despite ‘harm’ to Bedford’s conservation area

A care home has been allowed to redevelop despite the harm it will do to the Bedford conservation area.

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 7:00 pm

Borough planners have a sliding scale of harm and they judged that the redevelopment of the Willows Nursing Home would provide community benefits that override them.

A resident and two members of Bedford Borough Council’s executive lined up to try to persuade Monday’s meeting of the planning committee to throw out the Kingsley Healthcare scheme.

Council officers had recommended it for approval.

This house will be demolished under the care home scheme

The company wants to demolish 86a Clapham Road, and partially demolish the rear of 73 Shakespeare Road, to redevelop the old care home on the site so its residents have a more modern place to live.

Objecting neighbour Ed Griffin said: “Not enough weight is being given to the harm being done to the conservation area.”

The company had seen a previous plan for a new 44-bedroom care home on the site thrown out in September 2019.

But they came back with a proposal to reduce that to 35 beds.

Mr Griffin insisted that the new plans had the same shortfalls as the previous application.

“Heritage is very important to the town,” he said. “Its one of Bedford’s strengths. It should be protected as much as possible.

“It’s not listed, but I like it,” he added.

Mr Griffin was supported by both the Harpur ward councillors, Labour’s Colleen Atkins and Louise Jackson.

Cllr Atkins said it would mean over-development, be out of character in the area and it “will have a negative impact.”

Cllr Jackson said that trees and garden space will be lost, and claimed that the scheme is “very similar to the application that preceded it.”

But that point was countered by barrister Hashi Mohamed, who spoke on behalf of Kingsley Healthcare.

“We have done everything we can to engage with the council and we have responded positively.”

He admitted that the scheme would harm the conservation area but there were benefits of upgrading the care home with facilities to isolate people at “a critical time.”

And Janine Laver, the council’s head of planning, said the council’s own conservation officer, who is encouraged to provide “robust comments”, had downgraded the level of harm.

“We have to balance it against the benefits,” she said. These included provided giving better care and it being in a good location.

“The benefits outweigh the harm,” she added.

Cllr Martin Towler (Cons, Riseley) disagreed with the analysis.

“It is an over large development. A small house is being turned into a huge building.”

But other councillors lined up to support the scheme.

Cllr Jim Weir (Cons, Kempston Rural) said the company had picked up on the issues of concern in the new plans.

And Cllr Wendy Rider (Lib Dem, Brickhill) said: “I think it would be a great benefit to the residents of Bedford.”

Councillors voted by five votes to two, with one abstention, to approve the plan.