PLANS for a ‘care village’ which would nearly double the population of Catherine-de-Barnes and ‘breach’ greenbelt policy have been unanimously refused.
A council officer’s report to Solihull’ council’s planning committee yesterday recommended the go-ahead, despite accepting it will detract from the village’s countryside character.
It had claimed the ‘very special circumstances’ required to satisfy overriding national and local green belt policies exist in this case.
But councillors slammed the ‘massive’ development for breaching policy, saying it was totally inappropriate.
The plan involves the demolition of several buildings and the construction of 13 new building blocks – many three stories.
The main ‘Village Care Centre’ would have 50 care rooms, 49 care suites, a wellness centre, a restaurant and an office.
The luxury village would also include 84 extra care living units presented as either maisonettes, cottages or bungalows.
The application site is near Hampton Lane and Friday Lane in the rural small village of Catherine-de-Barnes.
Applicant Richmond Villages, owned by private healthcare provider Bupa, argued in its planning application that the ‘very special circumstances’ include the need for care facilities, the lack of alternative suitable sites and the provision of a range of accommodation and employment.
It says 120 jobs would be created.
Developer Donna Savage told the planning committee: “Week in week out we hear we have an ageing population and there is a crisis in the adult social care system.
“And while this application isn’t going to solve all of those problems, we have got to start somewhere – there is a need for this facility.”
But a local resident of five years Duncan McArdle said: “I lived one mile up the road for nine years and used to regularly come to the village because of its attractive nature and access to the countryside.
“The scale and intensity of this development would increase the population of this village, we believe, by around 40 per cent.
“It’s massive. Residents are constantly fighting threats to the greenbelt of this kind.
“We know it is a precious resource that, once lost, is never recovered.”
Council leader Bob Sleigh spoke out strongly against the application saying its approval would be ‘pushing the envelope too far.’
Other members of the committee praised the luxury care home facilities after a trip to a Richmond Village site in Oxford, describing it as ‘beautiful’.
But councillors questioned whether this type of expensive facility, only available to ‘very few privileged people’, is needed.
Coun Jim Ryan also objected to the proposal, saying it would set a dangerous precedent.
“I don’t believe there is a reason for breaching our greenbelt policy,” he said.
“If we agree to this application in the greenbelt we are throwing away all our policies which we have built up over the years which protect valuable greenbelt around Solihull which many people enjoy.
“Frankly this is an application too far that will swamp the village of Catherine-de-Barnes and it will double its population.”
The ‘very special circumstances’ exemption which permits building on greenbelt appears in the government’s National Planning Policy Framework, which otherwise aims to prevent urban sprawl and the unnecessary loss of open greenbelt land.
It is not yet known if the developer will appeal or submit another application.