Council chiefs 'knew' home was closing while residents moved in
PUBLISHED: 08:44 17 February 2015 | UPDATED: 08:44 17 February 2015
Vulnerable people were still being shipped into a residential home unaware that, six months before, its owners had approached district council bosses about its proposed demolition.
Last week, the Journal reported how an 88-year-old dementia sufferer had recently moved into Moreton Care Home in Drake’s Avenue - just five days before the announcement of its closure next month.
The woman’s daughter last week blasted the owners, The Methodist Housing Association (MHA), for allowing her to put her mum into the home when it was to be closed.
County chiefs also said they were ‘disappointed’ that MHA had continued to accept long-term placements as late as last month when, last July, MHA had thought of developing the site.
This week’s revelation emerged after Moreton’s local district councillor, Steve Wragg, blasted East Devon District Council (EDDC) for not telling him it knew Moreton faced closure.
Rules allow that when someone wants to develop a site, they can ask EDDC for advice, giving a future planning application a better chance of success.
It is now known that Moreton’s owners took up that option last summer.
While this advice is private, Cllr Wragg believes that councillors, privvy to confidential information all the time, have a right to know.
He said: “I asked (EDDC) whether there had been any pre-application advice given to the owners …I had received enquiries from concerned relatives of a resident.
“I accept discussions may be confidential to the public (but) I fail to understand how elected members are kept in the dark.
“If an elected member can be treated with such contempt, what chance does the public stand?”
An EDDC spokesman said that Government guidelines say that the advice is confidential. “This protects the interests of the applicant prior to the formal application…” said a spokeswoman.
“Planning officers acted entirely correctly in upholding the verbal confidentiality request of the MHA from whom we received a pre-planning advice request on July 18, 2014.”
Developers, she said, must be able to seek advice in confidence: “We have every sympathy with the families of residents. However, it is not the responsibility of our planning officers to make the decision as to when or when not to divulge sensitive information…it would severely undermine the ethics of the whole planning process.”
An MHA spokesman said: “The decision to redevelop the site was made late 2014. We made the announcement once a plan was in place to communicate the news and provide the necessary support in the eight weeks before closure, including researching alternative options in the area.”