Hampshire County Council’s ambitious £173 million upgrade plan to modernize the county’s care facilities has ignited a debate within the local community as seven care homes face potential closure. The proposal aims to replace outdated structures with state-of-the-art facilities, but concerns are being voiced about the impact on residents and the communities affected.
The list of care homes facing closure includes Bishop’s Waltham House, Westholme in Winchester, Solent Mead in Lymington, and Cranleigh Paddock in Lyndhurst. Cranleigh Paddock and Copper Beeches in Andover had been temporarily closed in 2021, prompting scepticism from care home workers who had received assurances from Cllr Liz Fairhurst, executive member for adult social care and public health, about their reopening.
The recent disclosure of plans to permanently close Cranleigh Paddock and six other sites has escalated the controversy, with care home workers accusing Cllr Fairhurst of backtracking on her previous commitment. However, the council is not merely shutting down facilities; it is proposing the construction of three new homes and the expansion of three existing ones. The new facilities are earmarked for Kingsworthy, near Winchester, and an undisclosed location in the New Forest, potentially increasing the total number of beds in county council-run homes from 900 to 1,000 pending approval.
Lyndhurst Parish Council expressed regret at the potential sale of Cranleigh Paddock. Chris Willshire, the council chairman, lamented, “It has been a valued community asset, and we had hoped it could be adapted to provide much-needed affordable housing. We very much hope that it can somehow be retained as a site for the benefit of our community.”
In response to concerns, a spokesperson for the county council emphasized the necessity of providing modern and comfortable care accommodation. The spokesperson explained, “Many of our current homes are aging, with buildings and layouts that pose severe limitations for staff and inadequate personal space for residents. Our plans propose a transformation of our existing portfolio of homes, incorporating new buildings and expansions, while concurrently closing seven of our older-style homes.”
The final decision on the fate of these care homes rests with Cllr Fairhurst, with the verdict expected next month. In the event of closure, the council assures that expert social care support will be provided to assist affected residents and their families in finding suitable alternative accommodation in close proximity to the existing homes.
New Forest county councillor David Harrison acknowledged the sentimental value attached to the homes but stressed the importance of adapting to modern standards. “I completely understand the attachment many people have for the homes set for closure. However, visits and officer reports have confirmed that the buildings are no longer suitable for use in line with modern-day standards.”
Copper Beeches in Andover, Green Meadows in Denmead, and Malmsbury Lawn in Havant are also listed among the sites set for closure, further fuelling the debate over the balance between sentimentality and the imperative of modernizing care facilities.
As the community grapples with the potential loss of beloved care homes, the county council faces the challenge of convincing residents that the proposed upgrades will ultimately lead to improved living conditions for both staff and residents. The ongoing debate surrounding the care home closures and upgrades underscores the delicate balance between preserving community assets and embracing the need for progress in delivering quality care services.