Giant Lochaber Oap Home Plan Slammed

A PLAN to build a massive, privately-run care home for the elderly has come under fire this week. The proposal to site a 90-bed care and nursing home at Camaghael, on land to the south west of the Fort William Health Centre, has raised the hackles of two local Highland councillors who say the developers have failed to do their homework and are set to inflict an “institution” on Lochaber.

Objections to the plan have already been voiced by one of the GP practices in the health centre.

A full planning application for the home was lodged with Highland Council last week by Cheshire-based company, Kingsgate Developments Ltd.

Kingsgate has purchased the site from the Apollo Medical Group, which gained outline permission to build a 60-bed private care home on the site last year. Apollo built the £7 million health centre, but it is understood the firm never intended to actually build the care home – only gain the principle permission.

Now, with a 50 per cent jump in the number of beds proposed for the private home, and with Highland Council set to build its own 32-bed mixed care and nursing home at Caol as a replacement for Invernevis House, Fort William councillors Donald Cameron and Michael Foxley have hit out.

Councillor Cameron told the Lochaber News: “This proposal raises concerns and poses many questions with regard to the research, if any, that has been undertaken by the applicants.

“To the best of my knowledge, no consultation has taken place between NHS Highland, Highland Council’s social work department and the developer.

“A 90-bed care home in Lochaber is over-provision on a grand scale and would be enormous, even in a medium-sized city.

“Highland Council’s administration is totally committed to building and running a new Invernevis House with a mixture of 32 care and nursing beds, so any placements by Highland Council in a new privately-run home would be minimal.

“For the Camaghael venture to succeed, the operators would have to import into Lochaber upwards of 60 people, based on today’s requirements.

“The strain put on the public resources of the GP service and the council’s social work department by a company motivated by profit rather than catering for the needs of the community would be totally unacceptable.”

Councillor Cameron said the concerns he raised were unlikely to be material planning considerations, adding that there appeared to be a “flaw in the system” whereby a developer can set up a large-scale care home operation without consultation with the authorities charged with looking after the medical and social needs of the community.

“In any case, for this operation to stack up commercially, any prospective care owner would be well advised to talk with local agencies,” he said. “Lest there be any doubt, a new Invernevis House remains on track and there is no question of a change in direction unless the administration of Highland Council wishes to go into meltdown, and I have no reason to believe that to be the case.”

Councillor Foxley said the Craig Nevis Surgery, of which he is a partner, is objecting to the plan and he hoped the two other surgeries at the health centre would follow suit.

He said: “The proposed two-storey, 90-bed care home is grossly excessive in size. This size of home will create an institution.

“Local demand is for a 30 to 40-bed joint registered home and Highland Council intend to build a new 32-bed joint nursing and residential home in Caol.”

He added: “A building of this size will only be economically justified if it brings in patients from outside the area. They will inevitably come from the central belt and from England and this will have major social consequences for the residents and their relatives.

“It also has major financial and workload consequences for both the social work department and NHS Highland.”

Despite repeated requests for comment this week, Kingsgate Developments Ltd failed to respond to the Lochaber News.

But Stuart Dallas, of Young and Gault Architects, Glasgow-based agents for Kingsgate, said: “The principle for a private care home has been established for the site, although this was for 60 beds, not 90, as Kingsgate Developments are proposing.

“We believe this is an effective use of the site and, while I’m not paid to investigate the demographics, I would imagine Kingsgate will have taken the fact that the council is building its own care home into account. However, competition, if I can put it like that, is not a material planning consideration.

“This is an opportunity to create a state-of-the-art care home and lots of effort is being put into ensuring it meets the highest of standards and this includes ensuring the whole building is dementia friendly.

“It will be a modern but homely building, on two storeys, with a day room on each of the outside corners. There will be a central, sheltered courtyard and there will be lots of natural light.”

Mr Dallas added: “We see a symbiotic relationship between the care home and the health centre.

“The application has been lodged and registered and there will now be a consultation process with the planning service and interested parties.”