Council's refusal of care home plan 'is one of the most bizarre planning decisions I have ever seen'

Chris McGoff (1)

Following yesterday's decision by the Northern Planning Committee to refuse planning permission for a care home to be built in Wilmslow, the CEO of Altrincham based New Care has hit back, describing it as "one of the most bizarre planning decisions I have ever seen in my 25 year career".

The Altrincham based company had applied to demolish two detached houses on Handforth Road and erect a 60 bedroom 3 storey care home.

The Planning Officer recommended the application for approval by the Northern Planning Committee, however committee members disagreed with his recommendation on the grounds that "the proposal would lead to the overdevelopment of the site due to its inappropriate scale, mass and bulk - detrimentally impacting the character and appearance of the area, and there are no material considerations deemed to outweigh that harm."

CEO at New Care Chris McGoff said "The decision to refuse the application for a second time when Senior Planning Officers have Recommended Approval on both occasions is one of the most bizarre planning decisions I have ever seen in my 25 year career, especially when the need for the care home is clear for all to see. Back in 2018, policy officers were being urged to look at how care home provision in Cheshire East could be safeguarded but despite the well-documented need which has been independently verified and accurately recorded by an unbiased third party, the provision of care solutions are still being challenged.

"The identified need for care in Cheshire East continues to increase with documented press coverage identifying Cheshire East as woefully under provided. Our care home will deliver quality new beds, but will only meet 6.5% of the current identified need at a time when older non-purpose-built facilities are closing at a rapid rate of knots due to their often non-compliant nature making them unsustainable.

"This is the negative side of our planning system where NIBYISM prevails and the views and requirements of the many are disregarded in favour of the privileged few. There is a demographic time bomb in this country which is fuelling a care crisis, and if we don't give proper consideration to fit-for-purpose facilities in areas where people want to live, and always have done, close to family and loved ones, that also meet regulatory and sustainability requirements, then we simply will not be able to cope.

"Esther McVey and other local Councillors have a lot to answer for. As Housing Minister, Esther McVey has continually repeated inaccurate and untrue statements as part of a formal objection focussing her argument on the local GP surgery being inundated with 60 new patients (one for each bed) should the care home application be approved. This is simply not the case. Statistically most residents who enter a care home are from the local area, and more often than not already registered with their local GP. In fact, our purpose-built facilities ease pressure on the local health economy by supporting the NHS and helping to ease the burden on hospital beds.

"Also, given the new requirements for GPs to facilitate "ward rounds" in care homes, it will be far better to undertake these in a fit-for-purpose facility of scale, which has a well-planned layout, designed to the latest clinical standards and which has appropriately qualified staff in sufficient numbers to assist with the process. The actions of the Housing Minister in objecting to the Application are also blocking the creation of circa 80 full time equivalent jobs of a skilled and semi-skilled nature and this is particularly frustrating to understand when she is promoting herself on social media as a champion of blue collar Conservatism.

"Other Councillors also need to be pulled up. They are happy to go on record to oppose the demolition of a care home due to the loss of beds, but then directly oppose the demolition of two houses to make way for an attractive new privately funded care centre that will directly address the dire care needs that they have been so quick to highlight. Cllr Stewart Gardiner has been reported as saying "In the north of the borough, we have a dearth of beds in the private sector for nursing and care provision. While nationally the loss of a care home may not be a problem, in the north of Cheshire East it is a problem. We have to ensure we have safe housing that meets the needs of the population, and increasingly that will include care homes" and fellow Councillor Paul Findlow calling for policy makers to close the 'policy gap' to avoid 'the difficulty that happens when one of these homes closes and we have to find alternative accommodation."

"Both Councillors have been keen to speak out on the need for care, so why are we in a position where Councillor Findlow directly opposes this application specifically questioning 'need' – it is completely conflicting and the general public needs to be made aware of the decisions they are making on their behalf which are directly preventing good care solutions being delivered in their Borough. It's nothing more than grandstanding to their audience of the day, rather than being true to a set of beliefs. Hopefully common planning sense will prevail at our next Appeal and if successful we will have no alternative but to seek a full award of costs from the Council."

Updated:

Councillor Toni Fox, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for planning, said: "Members of our planning committees act objectively and independently of the council's planning department.

"They will listen to and study carefully all the comments of planning officers, whether they are recommending an application for approval or refusal. They will also take on board all comments from interested parties, including members of the public, local ward members and the applicant.

"There will be instances where the committee may not agree with the recommendation of the planning officer, with objectors or applicants, leaving one party disappointed with the outcome. Also, in this case, the recent dismissed appeal on design grounds made this a balanced decision.

"Where an applicant feels that the decision by the planning committee was flawed the applicant can follow the appeals process and seek the decision of a planning inspector."

Tags:
New Care, Planning Applications
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Mark Goldsmith
Thursday 16th January 2020 at 3:32 pm
Oh dear. It seems someone has only just realised that Cheshire East is under new management and isn’t the planning pushover it used to be.

With his 25 years experience, you would have thought the CEO could of found a more suitable site for a nursing home. As the Planning Inspector also agreed with the councils first refusal, were they totally wrong too?

This second refusal was on the same grounds as the first. The revised building is not in keeping with its surroundings. It had been made substantially taller and would have been a three storey building in a two storey residential area. Calling the floors G, 1 and 2, so the top floor was referred to as the second floor didn’t fool them.

The planning committee is there to make its own decisions, otherwise what is the point of having it? Under the previous Conservative administration they just rubber stamped the Planning Officers recommendations. But as this developer has found out, this is no longer the case.

Cllr Mark Goldsmith
Residents of Wilmslow
Jonathan Follows
Thursday 16th January 2020 at 3:43 pm
I wonder: I just sense that until last year Cheshire East Council was too keen to approve planning requests and indeed sometimes force their approval through in the face of opposition.

Further, CEC were dreadful at policing the terms of the planning requests which were granted and allowed developers to get away with flouting and ignoring them with impunity.

The people who live here were increasingly unhappy with the state of affairs, and in part this led to the incumbents being voted out.

It seems that the new regime is listening to this and has realised that it has to demonstrate that things need to be done differently. Continuing to act in the same way as before would have been an option, but it wouldn't have led to repeated electoral success for sure.

So it's probably a bit tough for Chris and his company, but his timing is wrong, and I don't personally feel unhappy about the rejection of his planning application. I'm probably not alone in that either.
Paul Maddock
Thursday 16th January 2020 at 4:19 pm
Council's refusal of care home plan 'is one of the most "SENSIBLE" planning decisions I have ever seen......

Having worked for over 18 months in a London Borough Council planning department, I have seen some bizarre, ridiculous and some very sensible planning decisions - in my brief 18 months I probably dealt with more planning applications than Mr McGoff in his stated 25 years.

I totally fail to see how refusing to replace 2, 2-story detached houses (at most 8 - 10 residents, max 4 cars) in a residential area, with a 3 Story, 24 hour 60 room commercial enterprise (60 residents, at least 10-20 staff, three times a day in a rotating shift pattern - plus visitors - between 20-30 residents cars, 30 coming and going staff cars per day and anywhere from a few to 20 visitors cars per day) is in any way a bizarre decision.

Bizarre would have been if permission had been granted. I wonder if Mr McGoff has even visited the site and area or if, as most commercial CEO do, he has simply viewed the plans as set by his 'properties' teams? If he had, he would understand how and why this proposal is totally inappropriate and a complete over development of the site. While there may be a need for such care homes in Cheshire East, this site is totally inappropriate for this density of development - from 8 to 80 on the same site simply does not work.
Adeeba Minhas
Thursday 16th January 2020 at 5:59 pm
This planning committee comprises a bunch of incompetent unprofessional councillors. They keep moving goal posts in relation to this application. The reasons for refusal appear to be political expediency rather than on merit. The application has been sucessively improved to the point where all technical concerns have been addressed by the applicant. The reasons given for this latest refusal have been dealt with previously. The immediate surroundings of this area would be improved by this development with better security, road appearance etc
Nimbyism at its worst.
Stuart Redgard
Friday 17th January 2020 at 1:15 am
Chris McGoff. You have the right to appeal. Stop whinging and just appeal.
Jonathan Follows
Friday 17th January 2020 at 8:38 am
"Political expediency" and "NIMBYism" are the right reasons for rejecting this application.

Political expediency, because the politicians are listening to the people who elected them and are doing something which means they might get elected again. Nothing wrong with that.

NIMBYism because those of us who live in Wilmslow are fed up with the way developers treat us once their planning permission has been granted. There's nothing in it for us when a new development like the one proposed is built, there are years of unpleasant disruption and the end result is worse than the starting point with unsightly buildings and more congestion.

I was fed up of the way the previous council told us that it knew what was best for us, which meant forcing inappropriate planning decisions on us and the consequential negative impact on our lives. Chris McGoff tells us that we "need" his new development; well I don't and many others who live in Wilmslow probably agree with me. Long live NIMBYism!
Steven Kingsby
Friday 17th January 2020 at 8:58 am
The best decision the Planning Committee have made.

Oh dear, Chris McGoff with all his millions ££ has spit his dummy out.
He is obviously used to getting his own way, so now he has a tantrum.

His remarks are an insult to the intelligence and common sense to the people of Wilmslow and Cheshire East. The objections to this monstrosity are true and real and his intimidating statements are an example of the bully boy tactics that his company pursue.

We now see New Care's true colours and the fact he and his company have no concerns whatever for the neighbours or local residents.

Get the message McGoff, your money making scheme is not needed nor not wanted here.
Paul Roue
Friday 17th January 2020 at 9:01 am
Cllr Mark Goldsmith

The voice of reason, common sense and of course ... the residents.

And talking of the previous Northern Planning Committee (NPC) “rubber stamping “ somewhat dubious Planning Officer recommendations, Summerfields Village residents are living with the consequences every day just off Dean Row.

So thank you NEW members of Northern Planning Committee for your logic and perseverance!

Kind Regards

Paul Roué
Alan Brough
Friday 17th January 2020 at 9:49 am
Interested parties might like to know more about Mr McGoff, his 25 year experience and his motives........

https://www.carehomeprofessional.com/the-big-interview-chris-mcgoff-ceo-new-care/
Jon Williams
Friday 17th January 2020 at 10:18 am
His company has built some lovely Car Homes and no one should worry about living next door to one, after all, it could be your relative, or even you living in it in later years.
Roger Bagguley
Friday 17th January 2020 at 10:31 am
It does look like we are beginning to see change coming out of the regime now running Cheshire East. Certainly debate at the Northern Planning Committee is much more searching than was the case prior to the last local elections. Perhaps developers should begin to take note of changes to NPPF, to the advent of neighbourhood plans, of the emphasis being placed upon the wishes of local people and their communities.

Sorry if this upsets the likes of this particular developer. It is just a case of listening to local people, taking on board their concerns and showing some greater respect when things just don't go to plan. The new breed of councillors are perhaps better informed than Mr McGoff gives them credit for.
Geoff Ferguson
Friday 17th January 2020 at 10:54 am
Adeeba Minhas

I would guess from your statement that you don't live in the area of Handforth Road but I do wonder, who you work for and I don't suppose you know Jon Williams do you ?
Lynne Prescott
Friday 17th January 2020 at 5:16 pm
Mr McGoff is conflating two separate issues in his overwrought and somewhat insulting interview.

The first issue is whether this care home is needed in this area of Cheshire East. Figures presented by his company indicated so, though more detailed questioning by committee members revealed that these were extrapolations from national figures rather than specifically local figures. Set against this were informal surveys, by councillors and residents, indicating that the various care homes in the area, which include one, Eden Mansions, which offer dementia care, have vacancies at the moment, and also stats from a national league table would indicate that we already have one of the higher numbers of beds per capita than many other areas. Still, if Mr McGoff wants to spend the time and money to undertake a proper local survey that indicates there is a genuine need, he is welcome to do so and I am sure that, once associated with a suitable site, these figures would be compelling.

However the second question is whether the identified site in Handforth Road is the right place for a care home. Sited in an established residential area, with very limited public transport links (which are shortly to become even more so) and insufficient parking vs council rules; shoehorning a 3-story, 60 bed 24 hour, 7 days a week commercial enterprise onto a domestic plot, which has been universally agreed to be an overdevelopment and of overbearing appearance ( yes, even by the planning officers and planning inspector), it clearly was NOT the right place. The appeal rested on whether the need for care home beds OUTWEIGHED all these considerations, and therefore the question of strongly demonstrated need was key. After very detailed discussions and questioning, it was agreed that the strong need to outweigh all these other factors had NOT been sufficiently demonstrated by the extrapolated figures used as justification, and so the right decision was to reject this overdevelopment. Should the developers decide to appeal this decision with new figures which more conclusively prove a genuine need for further research home provision, would still expect the Planning committee to question what ter sites have been considered, and whether there is really no other alternative site than one already identified as sub- optimal, as we have seen them do in other planning decisions.

I attended this planning meeting ( as did quite a number of other concerned residents). I reject the label of nimbyism, which implies that I am against all development, undercutting the several well-founded reasons we have against this particular proposal. The questions and debate went on for some two and half hours, reflecting the many different points under discussion, so it was hardly an arbitrary or ‘ bizarre’ decision, as Mr McGoff would have realised if he had been
Julie Green
Sunday 19th January 2020 at 11:52 am
Chapel Lane and the Kings Arms end of Alderley Road were all 2 storey residential, but 3 storey plus seems to be the growing trend there, to the detriment of the area's character. I doubt it's the end of the story....
Catherine Jones
Sunday 19th January 2020 at 12:02 pm
Further to earlier comments, this was not a case of 'not in my back yard', but actually, 'not in the wrong location'. There was no snap decision here, the application was very carefully considered and at great length and debate (over 2.5 hours) by Cheshire East councillors, during which New Care had the chance to fully present their case. And it was not 1 or 2 people objecting, I took the time to read through the huge volume of letters of objection relating to this proposal and personally was surprised that the planning officer had recommended it for approval.

New Care has never tried to engage with local people about this. The care home, at 3 storeys with a large footprint, is overbearing to a large number of surrounding properties and totally out of keeping with the local area, affecting a lot of neighbours. The excessive height and massing is something that New Care has never attempted to address in their repeated applications and which has been the overriding reason throughout for refusal.

But more than that, this affects all the people in nearby Handforth. The local GPs simply cannot cope with yet another care home in their remit, without affecting the care they give to existing patients, which is why they have objected to every one of New Care's plans for this location. Also, their experience with the other large local care home they provide treatment to is that these are actually new patients coming into the area, not existing ones. And here they are already making up to 90 patient contacts a week!

Public transport availability to the site is limited, and the lack of the parking for the high number of staff Mr McGoff mentions (plus visitors) would cause a lot of disruption on local roads, including during the 3 years they would be building it, I'm sure causing long travel delays for locals. I also genuinely worry about the safety of young children walking past this site, where there is no pavement on the other side, on their way to local primary schools and nurseries.

From reading through the Big Interview given by Mr McGoff (link above), New Care has a business model of charging high fees in what they see as premium locations, so unfortunately I don't think the local NHS/council could afford to make use of any beds they were to offer. And, in any case, we heard evidence from the Health Centre/Care Commission that this area already has one of the highest rates of nursing home beds per capita in the country.

If the inspectorate now went against the decision of Cheshire East who know the local area, the residents who are directly impacted, the GP surgery who would be overburdened and the Care Commission who simply say it isn't needed, this would in fact be the bizarre decision, and quite damaging to the fair planning processes that we expect to see in our borough. Being a developer doesn't meant that the rules don't apply to you.
Simon Atkins
Wednesday 22nd January 2020 at 3:05 pm
Well done Cheshire East!
Joanne Anderson
Wednesday 22nd January 2020 at 3:06 pm
Good to hear this. Too late for us as we have a monstrosity being built next to our house. Obviously passed last year by the push over planning committee There is plenty of suitable land available in the county for this type of development which does not impinge on residents and their privacy
Audrey Youngman
Wednesday 22nd January 2020 at 4:20 pm
Three cheers for Cheshire East Council. This is totally the wrong site for a care home.
Maria Quin
Saturday 25th January 2020 at 10:47 pm
Well said Catherine Jones and well done to our new members of the Planning Committee! Some common sense and realistic, practical consideration for our town and residents! Hallelujah! More of the same please!

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