Families of residents at Furlong Close Hft facility in Rowde have pleaded with operators to halt plans to close the facility.

It was announced in October that the decision had been taken to close the site next June. In addition to the 33 residents with learning disabilites, a number of people use the facility for day care.

Trish Gange, whose daughter Katie lives at the complex, has said residents have been treated “like pieces of furniture” and has called for a 12-month extension to the proposed closure.

Meanwhile, a petition against the closure has gained nearly 2,000 signatures.

Mrs Grange said: “These very vulnerable people are to be re-housed into unknown premises, and in so doing will also be obliged to forsake their long term friendship groups, and quite possibly lose the continuity of excellent care given by the support staff that they know and depend upon.

"The prospect of losing what they had been led to believe would be their “home for life” has caused much distress and anxiety amongst them, with some of them already suffering from stress related conditions.

"For such a decision to be taken about the lives of such vulnerable people, without consultation, is totally removed from the compassion, care and understanding that should be the prime consideration of those who are entrusted with their care.”

She added: “It would appear that no allowances are being made for the restrictions imposed upon us all by coronavirus.”

Divisional director of charity Hft, Emma Bagley, explained that the closure had been arranged to maximise opportunities for people with learning disabilities or difficulties.

She said: “We have the opportunity now to ask people, probably, for the first time in their lives who they want to live with and the type of house they want to live in. This is giving them the opportunity to have easy access to shops or cafes the same way you or I would.

"At the moment the people we support are so heavily reliant on staff coming in that drive or a car being available, so if those things aren’t available on that day they are in effect confined to Hft Rowde.We want to maximise their independence and support.”

The proposed June closure date of Hft Rowde could be subject to change, given the wider effects of coronavirus.

She added: “We obviously very aware of covid there have been valid concerns raised by families that there will be additional challenges around the pandemic, and we are having ongoing discussions with Wiltshire Council around that all the time and the effect that that may have on their planning and assessment timescales.

"It’s something we aware of and certainly not ignoring.”

MP Danny Kruger has also pledged to support the families.

He said: “It was very concerning to learn that Home Farm Trust is proposing to close Furlong Close in Rowde next year. Several families have contacted me to raise their concerns about the impact this will have on the residents, and I am keen to work with Hft and families to find a way through that preserves the community of residents in the place they’ve lived in for nearly 30 years."

He has contacted Home Farm Trust and Wiltshire Council to discuss this matter.

Cllr Simon Jacobs, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Public Health and Public Protection at Wiltshire Council also pledged to support the residents.

He told the Gazette: “We are in contact with residents and their families to reassure them we will support them throughout any changes and we expect the excellent care they already receive to continue into the future. While this is Hft’s decision to close this site we are in agreement with the principle of that decision.

"The changes will mean residents can settle in smaller community based settings and have the opportunity to live more independently. We will work in close partnership with Hft to ensure the transition is smooth and puts the residents at the heart of future plans.”