The Executive Advisory Board (EAB) was invited to consider the mandate in respect of the Shawfield Road Site, Ash.
The Council previously had two purpose-built day centres providing care and support services for elderly residents, namely, The Hive at Park Barn in northern Guildford and the Shawfield Day Centre in Ash. Following a consultation exercise, a decision had been reached to consolidate day care services at The Hive, with clients of the Shawfield Day Centre being transferred to the former. With the improved facilities and services available at The Hive and by consolidating staffing, it was considered that clients would receive improved support and care whilst the decision also generated financial savings to the Council as part of its Savings Strategy.
Following the transfer of all day care services to The Hive, the Shawfield Road site was no longer required for its former purposes and had remained unutilised for approximately two years. The mandate considered options for future alternative uses of the site. However, it was noted that there was a charge on the title of the land requiring it to be used as a 'day centre' and this would have implications in respect of the viability and feasibility of some options. The charge was the result of an NHS agency contributing £280,000 towards the construction of the day centre and could form part of the basis of the valuation for a removal of the charge, which gave the NHS an entitlement to 60% of any sale of the site, including the rental income from an associated lease.
The mandate addressed the following areas:
· Options Evaluation
· Potential costs to proceed to the next stage to develop the Strategic Outline Case
· Issues, Assumptions and Risks
· Dependencies, Constraints and Opportunities
· Next Steps
· Reviewer List
The Options Evaluation identified the following five potential strategic options to deliver a solution:
1. Leave the site and premises vacant.
2. Redevelop the site for affordable housing.
3. Redevelop the site for alternative uses such as key worker or extra-care housing (including discussions with other health and social care providers).
4. Explore options for potential community uses of the site.
5. Sell the site.
Options 2-4 would be subject to successful negotiation and resolution of issues relating to the charge on the title of the site involving the relevant NHS agency, which may have a financial cost.
Having considered the mandate at its meeting held on 2 March 2022, the Executive / Management Team Liaison Group expressed a preference for the options relating to redevelopment of the site for affordable housing or to meet other housing needs, such as key worker or extra-care housing. Community use of the site was also felt to be an acceptable option, subject to there being a demonstrable need for community facilities in Ash and there being no ongoing costs to the Council.
The following points arose from related questions, comments and discussion for forwarding to the Executive:
a) A councillor expressed the view that there had been considerable residential development in the Ash and Tongham area in recent years without the provision of sufficient infrastructure to support the new housing or facilities to cater for existing residents. Accordingly, it was felt that no further housing in the area was needed.
b) There was a belief that the Shawfield site had been closed against the wishes of local residents and that Surrey County Council’s (SCC’s) intention to close the Abbeyfields Centre in Ash in the longer term would have a further negative impact on care services available to local residents. A day centre in Leatherhead which had previously provided dementia respite care had also closed.
c) It was felt that there was a Borough-wide shortage and need of day care services, discharge assessment facilities for those leaving hospital, and respite care to support people with dementia and their carers, which were required to reduce the need for residential care.
d) As it could be a lengthy and costly process to negotiate the release of a covenant, councillors requested that the Executive explore the possibility of pursuing a provision including an element of day care at the site jointly with partners such as SCC, the NHS and the voluntary sector to conserve the Council’s funds. There was a possibility of charities or voluntary organisations obtaining funds via SCC’s ‘Your Fund’ initiative for this purpose. A long lease of the Shawfield premises to other organisations to provide care services was also a possibility.
e) In the event that the site was redeveloped in part as a day centre with a shared use, any element of affordable housing included should be social rented housing and not for home ownership. As there were a number of sites being developed in Ash which included affordable housing provision, a preference for the construction of Council housing, which was in short supply, was expressed. However, it was acknowledged that Council housing would be subject to the Right to Buy scheme. Extra-care housing was also a possibility to form part of a redevelopment of the site.
f) As other community use facilities, such as a youth centre, in the Ash area were underutilised, it was not advocated that the Shawfield site be used for a similar community hall purpose. However, as the facility had been constructed utilising public funds and the related consultation results had indicated that the local community wished the facility to be retained, there was a view that the community should be canvassed to ascertain its wishes regarding the future use of the site. Such uses could include alternative care provision within the terms of the covenant, subject to available funding in respect of any necessary refurbishment or remodelling etc. depending on the intended use. However, as such a provision was likely to serve an area wider that Ash, consideration needed to be given to the extent of any related consultation exercise and to the managing of consultees’ expectations. It would be preferable to explore these options before reaching any decision concerning the possible disposal of the site.
g) An alternative to disposing of or leasing the site would be to consider transferring it to a community group, charity or Parish Council etc. in preference to allowing it to fall into disuse and disrepair.
h) A further choice to utilise the Shawfield site for a police presence in the area to tackle local issues had been raised as a possible temporary rental use until a longer term solution could be identified and officers would investigate this possibility.
i) Notwithstanding the above points, there was a view that it was premature to progress determining the future use of the Shawfield site before ascertaining the exact identity of the covenantee and the position regarding the surrender of the covenant and charge in respect of the site.
The Lead Councillors for Community and Housing and for Resources, respectively, thanked the EAB for its views and comments and acknowledged that they would be considered in the light of the need for facilities to support the growing number of people suffering from dementia and councillors’ desire to consult the community regarding its wishes for the future use of the Shawfield site. The EAB was assured that every effort would be made to prevent the site from remaining vacant for any length of time and that the inclusion of social rented housing as part of any redevelopment of the site would also be a priority.