Care home upgrade raises access concern

A MORPETH care home is planning a major upgrade of facilities, but concerns have been raised about access.

An application has been submitted for Howard Castle Care Home in Dacre Street to demolish its 1980s extensions and build replacements as part of improvement plans.

Applicant Healthcare Properties is also seeking permission to relocate the visitors’ car park to the front of the building, with access off Dacre Street, retaining the existing car park off Maritime Place for staff and deliveries.

The company says moving the visitors’ car park will provide an additional seven parking places in total, including two disabled bays, and access will be safer, while improving the visual approach to the home.

However, six trees, hedging and shrubs are expected to be removed to accommodate the new car park and access.

And Dacre Street residents are concerned that the changes will reduce on-street public parking spaces, increase traffic and cause disturbance.

Morpeth Town councillor Graeme Trotter, who lives in the street, said: “The feeling on the street is that people are very conscious of the trees.

“I have looked at the report and there is lots of detail there, but no plan showing which trees are going to be removed, which I didn’t find very helpful.

“They are looking to install up to eight parking spaces at the front with a driveway next to the entrance of the Dacre Street car park.

“There is a strong feeling about that, with the additional traffic it will generate.

“At least one, if not two, car parking spaces will be lost in Dacre Street.

“At the moment the entrance is just a single footpath. When cars are coming down the drive with headlights on they will be shining straight into the room of one of the Dacre Street houses.

“The feeling about the building itself is that people are fairly relaxed and the new link might be an improvement.

“It is the car park at the front and the access to it that people are worried about.”

The plans include changing the internal layout of the home and reducing the amount of bedrooms from the present 37 to 23, with en-suite facilities in each.

There will also be additional lounge and communal areas, as well as a basement for all ancillary services.

A design statement from the applicants states that the extensions built in 1986 provide poor accommodation, which does not meet modern requirements of the Care Quality Commission.

It states that alterations are necessary to ensure the economic viability of the care home and retain employment on the site.

The statement concludes: “The scheme proposes high quality extensions to an existing residential elderly care home to provide a sustainable facility for which there is a demonstrable need.”

However, members of Morpeth Town Council’s Planning and Transport Committee have some concerns.

Councillors initially suggested taking access to the site from the Dacre Street public car park, but then rejected the idea due to practical difficulties and access rights so members said screening should be put up to avoid car headlights shining into homes from the new driveway.

They also called for tree planting to replace any lost greenery and said county Highways officers should be satisfied that the new access is suitable for ambulances.

Councillors also regretted the loss of on-street parking places in Dacre Street and suggested the home could provide spaces on its land to offset the reduction.

The comments will be passed to Northumberland County Council, which will determine the application.