As VOTERS head to the polls today (Thursday) people in Rowde have called for Furlong Close to be the priority for elected councillors.

The care facility has been the centre of debate since last year, when plans were announced to close the site.

Furlong Close in Rowde near Devizes houses 34 people in self-contained flats, and also has a day centre for non-residents.

The families of residents living at there have since been invited to be part of the process of finding a new provider for the site, according to Wiltshire Council.

The final stages of this are said to take place next month with families of residents involved in the interview process.

This week (Wednesday, May 5) families and their supporters took to the streets of Rowde.

Save Furlong Close

Save Furlong Close

Armed with balloons, banners and personalised face-masks – they manned the side of the road as cars honked in support as they drove past.

Bromham resident Caroline Culley, a member of the local church, said: “The way these people have been treated is appalling. Hft is a huge part of the community, none of us want to lose it.”

Mark Mangham, a Liberal Democrat candidate in this week’s election, added: “Furlong Close should be a good news story for Wiltshire, given how well it has integrated into the wider community.

"But sadly that has not been the case.

"I don’t think the council has reacted quick enough, or realised the public feeling on the issue.”

He called for cross-party work on Furlong Close.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Bob and Penny GoodwinBob and Penny Goodwin

Penny Goodwin, a day service user at Furlong Close, also took part in the protest.

She added: “I would really miss going there. I’ve been going there 30 years and we do so many nice things like gardening, swimming, all sorts.”

The families have called for the future of Furlong Close to be a priority for the council moving forward.

Furlong Close is home to 21 Wiltshire Council-funded residents and 14 residents from 13 other local authorities.

Yesterday was Councillor Anna Cuthbert's final day in the role.

She said: "I couldn't be more proud to be standing alongsisde the Friends and Family of Furlong Close raising awareness of the campaign to save the homes of residents, who want to stay as part of this lovely village rather than be moved elsehwere."

READ MORE: Councillor hits out at ‘appalling’ decision to close Hft Rowde

Trish Gange, whose daughter Katie lives at Furlong Close, thanked those who had come out in support.

She said: “The generosity of spirit and kindness has been fantastic to see today.

"Now, we want to see real commitment for the future of Furlong Close now.”

In February it was stated that Hft who runs the Furlong Close would be closing its contract but said the site would be available for the next two years.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Under threat of closure Furlong Close Rowde.
Photo Trevor Porter 67262 5

Since then, Wiltshire Council has been in the process of finding a new provider.

Cllr Laura Mayes, cabinet member for children, education and skills and also standing in this year’s election, added: “It is essential that we find a long term viable plan for Furlong Close residents.

"I was pleased to update Rowde Parish Council that a number of alternative care providers have made submissions o Wiltshire Council to continue care at Furlong Close. These submissions are being reviewed by council officers."

READ MORE: Wiltshire Council issues an update on Furlong Close

Corporate director for people at the council, Lucy Townsend said: “We know families and friends at Furlong Close are anxious for a decision to be made for Furlong Close and we have invited family members to be part of the process to find a new provider for the site.

"Family members will be involved in an interview that will form part of the tender evaluation as it is important we take on board their views before any decision is made."

Responding, the Friends and Family of Furlong Close said in a statement that a new provider to cover the next two years does not address the long-term fear of the residents being evicted.

They added: “And what is that care provider being engaged to do? To oversee the closure of Furlong Close over the next two years.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald:

"This hardly qualifies as “decisive action” to save the vulnerable residents of Furlong Close from the trauma of being evicted from their long-term homes.”