Councillors back Bedford's conservation area over care home's development plan

The Willows is in Bedford's conservation area
The Willows is in Bedford's conservation area

Councillors have decided that protecting Bedford’s prized conservation area is more important than redeveloping a nursing home for people with dementia and at the end of their lives.

Bedford Borough Council’s Planning Committee refused an application from Kingsley Healthcare to demolish The Willows Nursing Home, off Shakespeare Road and Clapham Road, and replace it with a modern 44- bed care home.

“There would be some impact on the conservation area but it would be less than substantial harm,” said Mike Jones, a partner at Bidwells, on behalf of the Lowestoft-based care company.

“It would be a much needed £6million investment in Bedford, at a time when there are increasing demands for this kind of service.”

The company wants to replace an old Victorian building with 32 beds with more spacious rooms for its clients. The committee was told that the current care home is rated as “good” by the Care Quality Commission.

Other comments made in support of the plan said the redevelopment of the site would provide a better building for residents and staff.

The council’s manager for older people has also supported the Willows plans. It takes a “large number” of social care funded residents and is “one of the few nursing providers in the borough who offer residential and nursing placements at the agreed borough rate.”

The officer’s submission added: “Should the provider no longer be in a position to trade then we would have significant difficulties placing the existing residents due to the lack of affordable nursing provision in the borough.

“Additionally, due to the complex needs of the residents any move may be detrimental to their health and wellbeing and would not be in their best interests.”

But the council’s own planning officers recommended that councillors should refuse the planning application on the grounds that it would harm the conservation area.

Labour Harpur ward councillors Colleen Atkins MBE and Louise Jackson both wrote to the committee urging the committee to reject the plan.

And Cllr Martin Towler (Cons, Riseley) said: “This is on one of the busiest junctions in Bedford.”

The committee voted to refuse the application.