North Walsham care home plans given go-ahead

A 40-bed private care home for people with dementia has been given the planning go-ahead, despite concerns that residents should not live in such large groups and that its rooms are too small.

Healthcare Homes applied to North Norfolk District Council to renew permission granted in 2006 for an elderly mentally infirm (EMI) home in the grounds of its 50-bedded The Manor House care home, on Skeyton Road, North Walsham,

The firm says there is a shortage of specialist beds in Norfolk where the number of people with dementia will have increased by 132pc in seven years' time, reaching 14,260 by 2021.

Healthcare's bid was backed by an agent's report stating that on one occasion Manor House staff had to make more than 50 phone calls to other areas before they found somewhere to care for an 'increasingly distressed, violent resident.'

Norfolk County Council's Community Services agreed on the need for dementia nursing care in North Walsham and supported the provision of a specialist home, but said thinking had 'moved on' since The Manor House plan was first approved.

In a report to North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) planners, the county said: 'It is more calming for people with severe dementia to live in small groups, rather than living as one large group of 40. The proposed plans do not allow for such groupings which would require more communal areas.'

The report adds that the 12.2m sq rooms with en-suite facilities should be wheelchair accessible and that room size is 'inadequate to meet the expectations of future generations.'

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But planning chiefs recommended delegated authority to approve subject to the clarification of issues including parking provision, and fencing and hedging arrangements, and other appropriate conditions, which was granted by NNDC's development control committee last Thursday.

Officers said they believe room sizes are a matter for watchdog body the Quality Care Commission and say the district council should not get involved.

The 54-staff EMI home would be built in the 1914 Manor House's 18-acre wooded grounds, and would create jobs, including posts for Registered Mental Health Nurses.

And it would mean Manor House residents developing dementia could be transferred to a specialist bed, reducing the distress of moving away for residents and their relatives, and freeing beds in the main home for general admissions, according to the agent's report.

Colchester-based Healthcare Homes owns 23 care homes in East Anglia and bought The Manor House in 2006.

North Norfolk MP, Norman Lamb, was the guest of honour at The Manor House on Friday to mark the fifth anniversary of the creation of Healthcare Homes.

Richard Clough, chief executive, said reaching the fifth birthday was a real milestone for the team.

He said: 'We are proud of our accomplishments so far. We would like to thank our staff for their exceptional hard work since the company was formed, and we look forward to further expansion over the next five years and beyond.'