Care home planning row heads for ombudsman

RESIDENTS of a former workhouse in St Ives are set to complain to the local government ombudsman about Huntingdonshire District Council’s ‘maladministration’ of the planning process for a new care home next door.

People living in Limes Park, in London Road – which is in the parish of Hemingford Grey – have been fighting the plan for months and have refused to accept the decision to grant permission to Care UK Community Partnerships to demolish the single-storey former St Ives Motel and 16 letting rooms on the half-hectare site to make way for the 72-bed care home for frail and elderly people.

The proposals were supported by Hemingford Grey Parish and St Ives Town Councils, the Environment Agency, highways department and NHS, but residents of apartments in Limes Park were furious that their objections had been ignored by the council’s development management panel.

They complained that the site would be cramped, their homes in the two-storey Limes would be dominated by the three-storey care home, and the pile-driving could damage their homes.

They made a formal complaint to HDC to which they have now received an 18-page response and supporting documentation that they are now reviewing before complaining to the ombudsman.

Surface water drainage, sewerage and flood risk are also major worries for objectors.

“The first application for a care home next door to Limes Park was withdrawn after Hemingford Grey Parish Council refused it on the grounds of visual impact, flooding, car parking and ‘the fact that the site is essentially too small for the size of the development’,” a spokesman for the residents said this week.

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“In their revised design Care UK actually added more windows to the elevation that overlooks Limes Park. They also claimed the side elevations had been ‘sensitively articulated’ to reduce their scale and mass and the three-storey height would ‘enliven’ the side that Limes Park had to look at.”

They are complaining that the council breached government planning guidelines and its own procedure during the determination process. They are also unhappy at the support they received from Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly, who raised the issue with housing minister Grant Shapps.

HDC’s head of planning services, Steve Ingram, said the application could have been determined by officers without reference to elected members. “But I was made aware of the strength of residents’ concern, so I used my prerogative to put it to development management panel, which made the decision.”