The minister had considered a scheme in 2006 and had refused on the grounds that the proposal was effectively for housing. However the inspector considered the proposal in a called in scheme in 2011 and had decided the proposal would differ significantly from the 2006 scheme in not giving residents the freedom of choice in purchasing a care package and services elsewhere. The inspector had considered the focus had moved towards residential care with the primary purpose of providing care and support within safe and secure accommodation rather than providing easy to manage accommodation that supported residents’ independence.
The inspector noted this swing away from housing was illustrated by features directly serving those living on site and would not be evident within a housing scheme. This would create a more integrated scheme focused on care and falling within a sui generis use class. Features included assisted bathrooms and informal communal lounges, hobby and dining areas.
The previously responsible minister for environment and sustainable development had disagreed with the inspector and found the proposal to be little different to the 2006 proposal, and still regarded the proposal as housing and a minded to refuse letter had been issued in March 2013 However changes in the recently adopted local development plan had taken place and the application re opened. Powers had also since been transferred to the minister for housing and regeneration who agreed with the previous minister that the proposal was for extra care housing but was also in agreement with the inspector in that the site was now specifically allocated in the recent development plan for specialist or supported accommodation.
As the proposal was for an extension of an existing facility, the minister agreed with the inspector that the scheme was now compatible with its location, and the inspector’s conclusion that the allocation implicitly recognised the need for an additional care facility of an appropriate scale in this countryside location.
The inspector was also satisfied that the scheme would retain the existing sense of spaciousness and would not be out of scale with the existing complex or encroach into open countryside, with any visual impact harm mitigated by appropriate design and landscaping. The minister agreed with his inspector that the site’s location in open countryside was acceptable as the intent was to meet local needs and generate employment in accord with TAN 6 even though the site was not accessible other than by private car
Inspector: Emyr Hughes; Hearing