Inspector backs developer’s plans for 222 extra care homes in Walton-on-Thames

Later living developer Guild Living has won a planning appeal for a 222-home scheme in Walton-on-Thames which was turned down last year amid accusations of “ageism” by the developer.

Elmbridge council last October refused the £100m “extra-care” scheme on the basis that there was no local need for older people’s housing and that the development would damage the vitality of the town centre.

Guild, which is owned by insurance giant L&G, at the time accused the council of ageism for its decision, winning support from charity Age Concern, and writing to local MP  Dominic Raab to highlight the council’s opposition.


Guild Living’s plans for the forme Homebase site

Deciding the appeal, Frances Mahoney dismissed the council’s contention that the scheme would damage the vitality of the town centre, making clear that ground-floor restaurant and retail uses would be available to the general public.

She also concluded there was a clear need for housing for older people in the borough, despite the council’s assertion to the contrary.

The council has argued that, because the borough faced in its view a much more pressing need for general market and affordable housing, the proposed scheme failed to make efficient use of space, as required by national planning policy.

However, Mahoney said: “Refusing development which is compliant with both development plan policy and national policy just because it is not what has been identified as housing of the type of most pressing need, would basically mean that no development on such land would be able to proceed until the pressing need for new small one to three-bedroom housing is satisfied.

“This cannot be right.” 

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Mahoney concluded that, in judging the scheme against the presumption in favour of sustainable development also contained in national planning policy, there were actually “no policy harms” to weigh up against the scheme’s benefits.

“In the absence of harm, there are no adverse impacts of granting planning permission and so there is no balance to be drawn. Therefore, this appeal should be allowed and planning permission granted for the proposal,” she said.

Eugene Marchese, co-founder and director at Guild Living, said the decision represented a “key milestone” for Guild, which was set up in 2019 and has plans to build 3,000 extra-care homes over the next five years.

“In addition to creating 222 much-needed later living homes, this scheme will also add millions of pounds to the local economy each year, ease pressure on local health and social services while breathing new life into a derelict plot of land in the Walton-on-Thames town centre.

An Elmbridge council spokesperson said: “When determining planning applications we always look to protect and enhance the distinctive character of Elmbridge and to provide for the needs of our residents. We are therefore disappointed in the decision by the planning inspectorate to allow this appeal.”

Last October the council said it “strongly refuted” the accusation of ageism and said the application had been assessed by officers against both council and national planning policy.