Care village at Matchams Stadium site unanimously rejected

Plans for a 390-bed ‘care village’ on the Matchams Stadium site have been unanimously thrown out by Dorset councillors.

Several liked the idea – but not the location – on the edge of areas of ecological importance, close to protected heathland sites and only a short distance from the New Forest national park.

Concerns were also raised about surface and foul water drainage, extra traffic on Matchams Lane and how realistic it would be to quickly evacuate the site, mainly of people in their 80s, in the event of a heath fire.

Councillor Bill Trite said he would be keeping the development company’s leaflet, send to councillors, as a good example of how not to approach a planning committee.

“I recognise the need.. but this is quite the wrong place for it. There would be an adverse effect on the heathland, an adverse effect on the green belt; and adverse effect on many species and habitats; a lack of affordable housing, and when you add to that the effect on the New Forest dark skies policy it’s quite enough not to support this,” he said.

Wimborne councillor Shane Bartlett told the east area planning committee he saw little justification for the proposal and said he feared having so many elderly people in such a relatively isolated area might place a burden on local care services.

Cllr Alex Brenton said she was worried about what might happen in the event of having to evacuate the site in an emergency because of a heath fire.

“To evacuate such a scattered development could be quite problematical,” she warned.

Several nearby resident had written to Dorset Council claiming the care facility would be a better neighbour than the existing banger and stock car race track – but councillors were told that view could not be taken into consideration because, in planning, what was there now, was immaterial.

One supporter of the races, Jane Trimm, told the meeting of the strong sense of community among those who come to take part, or to watch, and said it would be a loss to local people if the race meetings had to move elsewhere, with several other sites identified as alternatives, the closest around an hour away.

The developers said the care village would bring a range of benefits; a caring home for older people, jobs for those who worked there and during the construction phase and direct spending on goods and services for the local economy once the care village opened – amounting to around £300m.

Almost 80 acres of the site would become a nature area, managed to protect local species.

Stuart Barnett from the parent company, Inspired, was critical of the Natural England objection which he claimed not only took a year to arrive, but was “fatally flawed” in its arguments against the development.

Dorset Wildlife Trust, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and the RSPB were among those to also object with more than 200 people writing to Dorset Council about the plans – some worried about the loss of the racetrack, others concerned about the loss of Green Belt land.

The outline application had asked for in principle agreement for 330 extra care beds and a separate 60-bed care home with associated communal and care facilities on the 52 hectare site demolition of some existing buildings and a new site access.

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 2 storey development to the west.  Small areas of one storey bungalow homes would be placed to the southern and northern ends of the developed area.

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 proposal to the committee said that the scheme “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.”

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