Retirement village gets the cold shoulder

Thursday 11th October 2007 10:00 pm
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FRESH plans to build a controversial mini- retirement village in Hindhead have been submitted to Waverley Borough Council. The application to build the 20 retirement homes following the demolition of the existing house at Hatherleigh, Tower Road, has already caused concern among Hindhead residents. Several Tower Road residents have written to Waverley Borough Council to protest against the scheme, which they describe as "completely unjustified" and "crazy". The proposed development would create six flats and eight cottages, with garages or garage spaces, for sale to retired people, and six 'affordable' retirement flats with parking spaces, in a slightly lower cost bracket, four visitor parking spaces and a managers office. Applicants English Courtyard Developments, who have specialised in providing retirement housing for nearly 30 years, believe the latest plans meet a need for the area. The developers describe Tower Road as a "quiet, tree-lined residential street" and point out they have already held four meetings with Waverley planning officers over the proposals. Representatives from English Courtyard Developments have also met with members of the village's Amenity Society, including chairman John Streatfeild-James. The developers claim there is support in both national and local housing policies for an increase in retirement housing and point out Waverley, and in particular Hindhead, has an "unusually elderly population". They also argue there is no affordable retirement housing in Hindhead and many elderly people are currently living in homes which are "unsuitable for their needs". The application would create a new access drive to the development as the current one is considered to be too narrow and winding, but construction of the new drive would result in the loss of two trees. The developers also claim the traffic generated by English Courtyard schemes is "always extremely low" and estimate there would be "about five car movements per hour, spread evenly throughout the day". The applicants also claim the "desire to retain trees has been a major factor in the form of the development" which they believe will give the scheme "a very special character". But the application has already come in for criticism from Hindhead residents, who have expressed grave fears over the scale of the proposed development and possible traffic problems. In an objection letter to Waverley Borough Council Kevin Greenslade, of Tower Road, said: "It seems crazy at a time when there are ongoing investigations to reducing the usage of Tower Road that such a large project would be considered." In his letter Mr Greenslade claims the proposed development would be opposite the entrance to Brambledown, which is home to 14 houses. Mr Greenslade believes this would create a hazard with people coming down Tower Road at high speeds, and would be "particularly unsuitable for such a large number of elderly residents". In a letter to Waverley William Cage, of Tower Road, said: "Replacing one property with 20 new characterless units is completely unjustified in a residential environment, especially given that the plans indicate that the new buildings will be more than 10 times bigger than the original structure, and house many more people in an already overcrowded and busy road. Mr Cage went on to say: "Comments in the plans about cars travelling at 25 miles per hour or less, because of the bend in Tower Road, are quite frankly ridiculous. "Cars regularly travel in excess of 40 miles per hour in Tower Road, hence the need for the new speed sensor opposite the entrance to Hatherleigh and a residents' speed camera on the bend itself." A previous scheme by English Courtyard Developments to build eight houses and 12 flats on the same site was withdrawn by the developer earlier this year. Members of Haslemere Town Council's planning and highways committee discussed that application at a meeting in June. At the time Tower Road and Pine Bank residents expressed grave fears the character of Hindhead could be "lost" if the development was approved. During the June meeting town councillor Bill Douglas said he was aware of several residents living near Hatherleigh who had written to Waverley Borough Council with "concerns in a number of areas". Mr Douglas said these included the development "changing the nature of the site", the danger of additional traffic on a road already used as a "rat run" and the overall detrimental effect on the area. Committee member Fay Foster said the plans would set a precedent in the area and deputy mayor William King said the development would have a negative impact. Mrs Foster also said the proposed retirement complex should be near shops and argued its location was "hopeless" for those without cars. Mr Douglas agreed that old people living at the proposed development would need cars but reminded committee members traffic on Tower Road was "tremendously dangerous". At the June meeting town councillors agreed to object to the proposals on the grounds of the loss of amenity for residents and the increase in traffic on Tower Road which "is already used as a rat run". The final decision on the latest Hatherleigh application will be taken by Waverley Borough Council.