Councillors have refused permission for a Cranleigh Village Health Trust (CVHT) scheme that would have brought 16 community beds back to the village.
Back in 2003, the charity proposed building a new community hospital after the community beds at Cranleigh Village Hospital were threatened with closure, the beds were lost in 2006.
The charity has fundraised more than £1.78million over the years, with Sylvia Wheeler even donating money from her parents’ and brother’s funerals in the belief it would help fund a village hospital. But the hospital project did not work out as planned, and the latest application for the site east of Knowle Lane was for a 64-bed care home – including 16 community beds with nursing care, as well as accommodation for 14 key workers.
It was refused by Waverley Borough Council on February 24, who said there was not enough community benefit to justify building on previously undeveloped land outside of their settlement boundary. They were told the NHS had moved instead towards assessing people’s care needs in their own homes on discharge from hospital, and Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) had withdrawn formal support for the scheme.
Andy Webb told the planning committee they would be losing one of the last green spaces in Cranleigh, to gain ‘a concrete monolith which would become a white elephant in years to come’.
He said: “They will be means-tested, unlike the beds in the old hospital that the CVHT claim they are replacing.
“We will simply be left with a private care home. Is this what the people of Cranleigh in good faith raised so much money for?”
Cllr Liz Townsend said: “It’s no longer a community project, which it did start out as, to raise money for a hospital with the task of raising £2 million with an endless list of fundraising events. People even left legacies, children paid their pocket money in.
“The community support has dwindled as time has gone on, the project has lost its heart and there is no doubt that the community feels shut out.
“They’ve seen the money they raised dwindle, parish land which was sold for £1 being used to benefit what they effectively see as a commercial organisation with, yes, some charitable objectives.”
John Sneddon spoke on behalf of CVHT, whose stated objective is to ‘preserve the long tradition of in-patient care in the village’. He said it was ‘directly responding to an area with a striking and increasing proportion of older people, as stated in the 2018 local plan, and affordable key worker [accommodation] problems’.
“Any income that the Trust raises will be used for local healthcare, via grants and other means,” he said.
He queried a statement from Surrey County Council that they had ‘sufficient capacity for residential care beds through existing contracts’, saying they had previously said there was a shortage.
Cllr Stephen Cosser asked councillors to address planning issues only and ‘clear our minds about some of these very, very emotive political arguments in Cranleigh’.
“I don’t think you have to be a resident of Cranleigh to understand that there’s an ongoing quite bitter debate in that community around this,” he said.
“A lot of people seem to be terribly angry about whether this is all terribly fair because the money was raised for another purpose and there are those who argue that that money should be returned and not used, I suspect, for pretty much almost any other purpose. There are others who are suggesting we have to get realistic; things have changed and we have to find a proposal that does provide some benefit to the community.”
Cllr Patricia Ellis said 16 community beds would be “a great gain for our community that answers a recognised need, and the affordable accommodation is an added asset”. But Cllr Ruth Reed said they had enough care homes in and around Cranleigh already.
Cllr Paul Follows said: “The change from Surrey and particularly the ICP has pretty much eliminated any community benefit that the scheme brought at any point.”