Plans for a large retirement community at Avonpark in Winsley have been given the go-ahead by Wiltshire Council after a lengthy debate amongst councillors with some concerns raised.

The development will involve the demolition of the Alexander Heights and Fountains Place buildings, which were once used as a care home, and the construction of 74 retirement apartments.

As well as these new homes, occupants will be provided with facilities such as a shop, restaurant, library and a croquet lawn within the gardens.

The proposal was discussed at the Western Area Planning Committee meeting on Wednesday, May 8, which was attended by several residents.

READ MORE: Avonpark investment plans to be given green light from planners

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Artistic drawings of what the project will look like

Representing “the people of Winsley Hill”, Fleur Hitchcock spoke of her concerns regarding the development.

She said: “What we object to is the sustainability of the site, and quantity, quality and design of the proposed buildings.

“We are concerned by the number of people the site hopes to house, and the number of people who will be needed to maintain it.”

She referred to the potential strain on the facilities in the village, including the “already impossibly stretched” surgery, as well as the buses.

She added: “Avonpark is visible from as far away as Hinton Charterhouse, and in spite of the methodology statement, the new proposal will be far more dominating than the existing, comparatively low-rise development.”

Guy Flintoft, who is the planning and design director at Retirement Villages Group, said: “There remains a huge unmet need for housing with care in this area of Wiltshire, which this proposal will help to address.

“The financial performance of the proposals will be well below the level normally required to justify investment, but they are necessary to solve the problem of these obsolete buildings and to restore Avonpark’s operational viability.”

It was argued that, whilst reaching up to five storeys, the buildings would contribute “positively to the distinctive landscape setting.”

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The chairman of Avonpark residents’ committee, Michael Ross, expressed his support of the application.

He said: “The viability of the existing site with buildings that are either derelict or no longer fit for purpose, is well recognised by the existing residents who feel they could greatly benefit from increased amenities along with the upgrade in the structure and presentation of the existing site.”

Meanwhile, Graham Bostock from Winsley Parish Council raised concerns over the light pollution from the site across the valley.

Cllr Johnny Kidney, representing Winsley and Westwood, requested that the committee note the “incredibly sensitive” location and consider the application carefully.

After a detailed discussion, the committee voted to approve the plans, with conditions to mitigate issues such as light pollution and road safety for the elderly residents.

Jack Stirling, development manager at Retirement Villages Group, said: “The council’s approval of the plans is a landmark moment for Avonpark and its current and future residents.

“Redundant and empty buildings currently sit at the heart of the community.

“Our investment plans will not only replace them with high-quality new homes, but help bring residents together with an excellent range of facilities.

“We’d like to thank Avonpark residents, who recognise the need for change and have helped shape the design we put forward, as well as Wiltshire Council who have supported our vision to futureproof Avonpark, ensuring it remains a sustainable and attractive community for decades to come.”

According to the developer, the project is expected to deliver 76 full-time equivalent jobs during construction and 23 jobs on completion, a £6.8 million “economic boost” during construction for the local economy, and £175,000 in council tax each year.

Work is due to start by the end of 2024.