A decision is expected next week on whether a 390-bed care ‘village’ for the Matchams Stadium site at St Leonards should go ahead.
Dorset Council officers are recommending the May 3rd area planning committee refuse the outline application because of the impact on Dorset heathland and being contrary to green belt policy.
They also raise concerns about a proposed surface water drainage scheme and warn that the etsimated £184 million development could have an impact on the dark skies of the nearby New Forest National Park.
Dorset Wildlife Trust, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and the RSPB have objected to the application with more than 200 people writing to Dorset Council to object: Several are worried about the loss of the racetrack, although the majority are concerned about the loss of Green Belt land, some saying that if the site were to be developed it should be for affordable homes.
The developers, Senior Living (Matchams) Ltd, say that if approved it would create at least sixty jobs and help release hundreds of homes elsewhere, as well as making a financial contribution, (calculated by the council as needing to be £4million), towards affordable homes in the area. They say a large part of the site would be set aside for nature conservation.
The outline application, first submitted more than a year ago to Dorset Council, asked for in principal consent for 330 extra care beds and a separate 60-bed care home with associated communal and care facilities across the 52 hectare site.
The planning application said the development would be up to 3 storeys in the ‘village centre’ to the eastern side of the site with areas of two storey development to the west. Small areas of one storey development would be placed to the southern and northern ends of the developed area with a buffer zone stretching to the trees and heathland.
Community facilities would include a wellness suite, offering a mix of exercise, relaxation and therapeutic facilities, physiotherapy and rehabilitation activities and group exercise classes; a salon; a restaurant for communal dining and home delivery; and a social activity space.
The application also includes the demolition of existing buildings and the retention of the majority of the 400 parking spaces on the site.
An online consultation in the autumn of 2021, promoted by writing to more than 500 homes in the area, generated 428 page views online with an exhibition visited by around 50-60 people.
Most of those who responded on a paper feedback form said they did not believe there was a need for more purpose-built accommodation for older people in the area while only 2 out of 28 said they would support the proposals.
Of the positive comments one said that re-development of the former racetrack was long overdue, another said they would welcome a new use for the site, rather than endure race nights for bangers and stock cars.
The developers claim that building the complex should result in releasing 140 family sized homes and 80 other homes on to the market through older people moving from underoccupied properties into the new development.
Constraints to the site include protected heathland within 400 metres, protected species, and that the site is within the Green belt, although the developers say they would have a 20 metre ‘no build’ buffer zone along the north and south east boundaries.
They also say they would ensure that extra care apartment blocks and cottages are arranged off the existing access road in an “organic pattern” with the Village Centre block directly from the main access.
The development would include 15 two-storey apartment blocks, 143 2-bed cottages or bungalows; 55 3-bed cottages with the three-storey village centre building having 32 one and two-bed apartments, a restaurant, café/bar, meeting rooms and a well-being centre with treatment rooms, restaurant and a gym.
The officer proposals to the eastern area planning committee, which will meet at the Allendale Centre in Wimborne, says: “The proposal would have unacceptable impacts on designated sites. It fails to make the required contributions to affordable housing and represents inappropriate development in the green belt. Insufficient information has been submitted to enable a full assessment of the impacts on dark skies, and insufficient data has been submitted in support of the surface water drainage strategy. The proposal is contrary to planning policy and is recommended for refusal.”