THE very worthy concept of providing a facility for people with severe learning disabilities to enable them to live in a supported environment and be trained in practical skills and to gain on-the-job experience, thereby earning money, can only be greatly encouraged.
A charity known as the JPK Project has submitted a planning application purporting to achieve these objectives to Eastbourne Borough Council recently.
The location of the proposed development is on the Edgmond Evangelical Church site on Church Road in Eastbourne.
However, a critical look at the details of the proposals reveals a number of serious flaws in the thinking behind them.
Firstly, the amount of space available for living accommodation planned for 24 adult residents is very cramped indeed.
There is no possibility of providing any outside recreational space on the site, thereby necessitating residents with severe learning disabilities will be obliged to negotiate the very busy Church Street main road if they want to have some green space in which to relax and socialise in the local area.
An “activity room” allowed for in the plans is tiny and located in a basement area, apparently with no windows and therefore no natural lighting or ventilation.
The plans submitted propose to create a tearoom/bakery/kitchen and charity shop within the old church hall and intimate these will generate income for the project.
I think those knowing this part of town will immediately realise there is no passing trade in this very residential area for the catering facilities envisaged, and Eastbourne really does not need another charity shop.
To be successful with these sorts of enterprises, a lot more imagination is needed to create an attraction to the public to use them. There is no such attraction here.
The proposals represent a massive over-development of the site in this historic part of town, and should be rejected.
They will add considerably to the already very congested parking problems experienced by local residents.
Proper parking facilities must be made available for staff, volunteers, customers of the planned commercial activities and for family visitors to the residents, many of whom will be elderly relatives who will not be impressed by the layout of the planned parking slots.
It is unfortunate that, having being in existence for 10 years, this appears to be the best solution the charity’s management can come up with.
East Sussex is a very large area and it should have been possible to identify an appropriate location at which to establish this undoubtedly desirable facility.
In addition, due to the anticipated high demand for this type of facility, due consideration should be made for it to be capable of future expansion.
An examination of the proposals would indicate this is an extremely expensive building project and charitable donors, together with a large number of very well-intentioned fund-raisers, should question the wisdom of investing millions in them.
They should be aware, for instance, that it is likely that £50,000 of their hard won donations are needed just for an archaeological dig on the site, prior to even starting building work. Good value for those with severe learning difficulties? I think not.