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Anger as extension to Chippenham care home is approved
Pewsham residents said they were devastated after planning consent was passed to more than double the size of a care home specialising in dementia.
They say they are kept awake at night by residents screaming and expansion could only make the disturbance at Forest Lane worse.
But the council case officer said noise was a fact of life and neighbours needed to show more tolerance, and the expansion of Goldenley to 44 bedrooms received a resounding yes vote by members of Wiltshire Council’s planning committee on Wednesday evening.
Passions ran high at the meeting at Chippenham Town Hall, with frequent shouts of protest heard from members of the public, and dramatic exits made by two of the neighbours on separate occasions.
Danes Close resident Paul Sibley said: “The manager has historically failed to keep noise levels to an appropriate level.
“At Christmas I heard pleas for help for over an hour so noise levels are not being resolved. Children using the lane are being exposed to the shouting, screaming and swearing that has become part of our everyday lives.”
But when addressing the committee, manager of Goldenley Sats Ahluwalia, who also runs care homes in Devizes and Reading, said: “I still believe there is a need within the Chippenham area to occupy all the severe dementia residents which we are going to see happen.
“Noise levels are addressed. With the permission of one individual we moved her from the front room away from the residents. We make sure all the neighbours are listened to.
“The residents need to be part of a community and not put somewhere in the countryside or in a hospital where noise levels are not controlled. They are human beings, who require accommodation, who require to have a home, a peaceful home, with specialist care providing peace and quality of life.
“We try our best to aid the local community in terms of employment and future employment.”
Case officer Lee Burman said: “The applicant has indicated he does engage with the local residents,” meeting with an interjection of “No, rubbish!” from a member of the public.
Mr Burman continued: “Noise can come from any residential property and is a fact of life. They need to live in our communities and we need to have some tolerance of that. That is the nature of the beast I’m afraid.”
Mark Packard, Wiltshire Councillor for Chippenham Pewsham, said there had been an upsurge in noise levels since the home changed hands early last year.
He also raised concerns about a possible increase in traffic on Forest Lane, which is five metres at its widest and a major thoroughfare through to the primary school and shopping centre.
He said: “It is a major right of way from Pewsham to the town centre. It has no pavements and has no turning circle. Trucks supplying the home currently have to reverse out, it is dangerous.”
He was applauded by the public after saying he supported the increase permitted in 2010 for an extra 15 beds, but an extra 26 was a significant difference and would be an overdevelopment.
Coun Linda Packard said Chippenham Town Council had not objected, though also had concerns about impact on road safety.
She said: “The fact that this application has been amended and has nine conditions attached to it makes me think it would be prudent to reject it and put in a new one.
“We understand car parking has been reduced [to an extra five rather than 15 spaces]. Should it be insufficient it will result in cars parking on the road and that will have an impact on pedestrians. And we think there will be an increase in lorry deliveries.”
Mr Ahluwalia said there would be no additional traffic as the same number of lorries would simply carry more goods.
Councillor Peter Hutton said traffic calming measures offered by the applicant should be assured by way of a legal agreement, but that the health and well-being of residents came under the remit of the CQC and were a management, not a planning, issue.
Councillor Philip Whalley said: “I do find the vehicle argument a little difficult to live with. We all want Tesco to deliver groceries to us so are prepared to accept delivery vehicles moving through our estates. How many people think, hang on a minute, there may be a price to pay, there may be child safety issues?”
Councillor Bill Douglas proposed the extension should be accepted. He had checked the visitors’ book to see how many arrived by car. “Only two members of staff have cars; most come by foot as the policy is to recruit locally,” he said.
“There were 26 visits per seven days by car. This will be doubled of course, so nine cars per day.”
When asked if triple glazing was an option, Mr Ahluwalia said: “We need to open a window sometimes; we can’t just keep it shut.”
Case officer Mr Burman said: “I think we have to acknowledge that double glazing is probably adequate.”
The application was voted through seven to one, with Councillor Toby Sturgis abstaining.
After the meeting, resident Mr Sibley said: “We’re devastated, gobsmacked. We are going to fight this.”