Ascog split over new care home proposal

An artist's impression of the proposed new 30-bed care home for a site to the north of Ascog Mansions.
An artist's impression of the proposed new 30-bed care home for a site to the north of Ascog Mansions.

PLANS for a new 30-bed care home in Ascog have run into opposition from some of the village’s residents.

Local developer Ian Woollcott of Bute Homes Ltd has asked Argyll and Bute Council for permission to build the new facility, which would include a purpose-built dementia unit, on a site to the north of Ascog Mansions.

But a neighbour of the site has delivered a leaflet to local residents stating that the development “would inevitably cause a huge increase in traffic past your home and bring commercialisation to this beautiful conservation area when more suitable locations are readily available”.

The leaflet - giving the building’s capacity as “some 40 beds” - has been circulated by Dr Richard Carley, who owns Clyde House, which lies immediately to the south of the development site.

It also states that to allow planning permission “would open the door to future commercial developments out of the town”, and states that a meeting of concerned residents, organised by Ronnie Falconer, who lives at Hawkstone Lodge at the south end of the village, will be held at Chandlers Hotel in the village at 7pm this Monday, July 18.

“This is a commercial development of a quite considerable size which would completely change the character of the conservation area,” Dr Carley told The Buteman.

“It will mean a huge increase in traffic, and it might set a precedent for more development away from the town.

“Rothesay is crying out for regeneration, so why have this here, away from the facilities elderly people need?

“I would also question whether there is a need for a home of this size, given the relatively small population of Bute and the care provision that already exists on the island.

“I’m not opposed to development on the site, but it’s got to be the right sort of development for the environment.”

But the site’s other immediate neighbour, James Hendry of Invergyle Cottage, told us he supported the principle of having a care home built next door.

“I would welcome it,” Mr Hendry told us. “I think the island needs it, especially the way things are with some of the other care facilities here.

“There are a lot of elderly people on Bute, and I think something like this would be advantageous.

“Our only concern was whether access and egress would need to be via our drive, but we met Mr Woollcott and were assured that would not be the case, although I’ve written a letter to the planners asking them to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

This is not the first time proposals to develop the location have aroused the ire of some nearby property owners – though fierce opposition from the Ascog Residents’ Association to an application to build ten detached homes on the site didn’t stop councillors from Bute and Cowal granting planning permission in January 2006.

That permission ran out in January of this year – but an application to extend its validity was made just before then, and members of Argyll and Bute’s planning, protective services and licensing committee granted a 12-month extension, subject to 18 conditions, at a meeting on June 22.

Ian Woollcott of Bute Homes Ltd told us he had received “a lot of support” for the proposal, and that he believed the whole island community would benefit from the project.

“For a start it’s 30 beds, not 40,” he said.

“We feel it’s a perfect location for a residential care home. It’s in a tranquil setting, the sea views are fantastic and I think ten houses with 20 cars would be a lot worse than what we are proposing.

“For us it’s an exciting project which will generate local jobs, both during and after construction, and will meet a clearly-identified need for more care facilities on the island.”

Mr Woollcott told us the boundary wall around the outside of the site would be lowered to one metre in height, helping road safety by improving sightlines around the tight bend in the A844 at nearby Ascog Church.

He also said an ‘end user’ had been identified for the care home, though he said he was not in a position to confirm that user’s identity, and that the figure of 30 beds had been arrived at after consultation with the authorities.

In addition, Mr Woollcott told us that if the planning process goes as smoothly as he hoped, the home could be open 18 months from now.

“We are trying to do something which will benefit everybody,” he continued.

“I’ve been building and trying to sell 40 houses at Eastlands Park during a recession – it’s been hard work, and it made me think ‘does Bute really need another ten houses?’.

“As a developer, you’re always looking at the things land can be used for and the things the community needs.”

The deadline for representations on the proposal is Thursday, July 21; the plans can be viewed online at www.argyll-bute.gov.uk (click on View Planning Applications and enter reference number 11/00954/PP), or in hard copy format at the council’s Eaglesham House office in Rothesay.