Proposals to demolish the old Felix Hotel and build an 80-bed care home and dementia research center in its place have been rejected by councilors for the South Cambridgeshire district.
They questioned the need to take down a Girton landmark and were concerned about the ability of GPs in the area.
Cassel Hotels (Cambridge) submitted the application for the Dementia Care Home and Research Centre, which would have linked in-house care to professionals at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
Speaking on behalf of the claimant at last Wednesday’s planning meeting, David Roe, director of land and planning for care operator KYN, argued there were “numerous and significant” benefits. and that the very special circumstances needed to build in the green belt were “indisputable”.
“We are responding to a need for care beds by proposing to create a modern, world-class nursing and dementia facility, providing round-the-clock care to 80 elderly and vulnerable local residents,” he said. declared. “The need was crucially noted in a recent appeal decision in South Cambridgeshire.
“The new Dementia Center of Excellence will provide training and research into this condition between staff and key professionals from Addenbrooke and the NHS Foundation Trust.
“There will be an on-site supply for healthcare and GP services, [and] there will be a significant net gain in biodiversity. The number of trees on the site will increase from 84 to 139.
“The new home will create around 115 new jobs, easing pressure on the NHS and local public health services.
“The scheme will contribute positively to unlocking council housing needs under larger occupied homes for families. The new building will enable the delivery of specialized care in a purpose-designed and built environment.
Mr Roe said an assessment had been made of the existing building to see if the conversion was feasible, but he found the building was “suffering” from numerous issues, including subsidence.
But a member of the public and former councillor, Tom Bygott, underlined the importance of the main house for the community of Girton, describing it as a “beautiful and much-loved Victorian villa”.
He said: ‘Built in 1852 as a private home, it has been refurbished to the highest standard as a luxury hotel, capturing the exuberance of the Victorian era. Its unusual design combines a Dutch gable with bow windows.
“It’s an essential part of Girton’s heritage. Had it been built 20 years earlier it would have been listed as Grade II, but unfortunately Victorian buildings are not as well protected as Georgian buildings.
“Victorian architecture was considered old-fashioned and this prejudice still remains in the rules of registration.”
Mr Bygott felt that it was not necessary to demolish it to build the retirement home.
He stressed that it was a “small building on a very large piece of land”, with “enough space” to build around, adding that the “wrecking ball” should be the last option.
Cllr Dr Tumi Hawkins (Lib Dem, Caldecote) was ‘very concerned’ about the loss of the unnamed heritage property and acknowledged its importance to the people of Girton.
She added that without seeing a structural report on the subsidence referred to, she could not “take it as fact”. She added that the building was not “in ruins” or “falling down” and that work could be done to improve the fabric of the building.
The destruction of undesignated heritage property was the biggest concern of committee chairman Cllr Henry Batchelor (Lib Dem, Linton), who felt that the benefits were outweighed by the damages.
Cllr Bill Handley (Lib Dem, Over and Willingham) was concerned about comments from the NHS’ Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group, who said it was ‘simply not tenable’ that the services of general practitioners in the region respond to the needs of the nursing home.
The CCG said the list of practices already exceeded capacity – which Cllr Handley said the committee should not ignore.
Cllr Dr Richard Williams (Con, Whittlesford) was not satisfied that the very special circumstances needed to allow development in the green belt had been met, given that Cambridgeshire County Council had said there was no no need for beds.
He acknowledged the claimant’s report indicating the need for space in the care home, but said this did not take into account recent planning permission for another care home.
He concluded that “at best” they could say the need was “contested”.
All councilors voted to refuse the plans.