Replacement Eastbourne care home plans refused as too large

Artist's impression of what the new care home might look like
Artist's impression of what the new care home might look like

Controversial plans to demolish an Eastbourne care home and build a replacement have been unanimously refused by town planners.

On Tuesday (July 23), Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee considered an outline application to demolish Pentlow nursing home in Summerdown Road and build a new 64-bed care facility in its place.

The new facility would be intended to replace both Pentlow and the neighbouring Summerdown nursing home, both owned by Canford Healthcare Ltd.

While details of the design were to be decided at a later stage, councillors considered the proposals to be unacceptable due to concerns about the size of the building needed to accommodate a 64-bed care home.

Cllr Jim Murrary, the committee’s chairman, said: “We’ve been out and had a site visit out there and spent quite some time looking at the street scene and looking at the proposed building.

“I’ve got concerns about the oppressiveness about how large this building is going to be to these small houses at the back.

“I know we are only at outline, so the design is going to change, but I can’t see how we are going to allow a three-and-a-half storey building in that road. It would just be completely out of place.

“In principle a nursing home is fine, in principle 64 beds is fine. But what I don’t want to be doing – and Cllr [Peter] Diplock came up with a good phrase – is giving the developers a blank cheque.”

However, Cllr Murray, along with other councillors, invited the developer to come back with a full planning application at a later date.

This full application, he said, may be able to address the committee’s concerns around the size of the building and reduce its height.

But officers, who had recommended the outline scheme be approved, warned that this may not be a realistic prospect.

Senior specialist planning officer Leigh Palmer said: “We have heard from the applicant’s representative that this is a business decision based, to some degree, on market forces.

“There is a minimum number of bed spaces you need, in this climate, to make a viable ongoing business.

“If this scheme is resisted  there is the argument that both the business will fail  and we will then have two large buildings that then need to find a new use. They will probably come forward for either redevelopment or conversion into residential apartments.

“The point I come back to is this is an outline application and we are satisfied that the number of bedrooms proposed can be accommodated on the site without giving rise to material harm to the street scene.”

Mr Palmer added that – due to the room size requirements set by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – a smaller building would not be able to fit all 64 bedrooms within it.

He said: “If members are satisfied that a three-and-a-half storey building is inappropriate for this site then you have satisfied yourself that the 64 beds proposed cannot be accommodated on this site satisfactorily.

“We would not be able to go back to the applicant and invite an amendment to the scheme and still deliver the unit number the applicant requires.”

Ultimately, however, the committee opted to refuse the outline scheme, unanimously voting to reject it on the grounds it would ‘could not be accommodated on the site without resulting in a detrimental impact.’