In an unusually well attended Banbury Town Council planning committee meeting, residents who will be effected by plans by Sanctuary Housing to close four common rooms made their case against the closures.
A dozen residents and their supporters from the communities under threat, outlined to chairman Cllr Tony Ilott and committee members the importance of the communal rooms and the increased isolation there removal would mean to vulnerable elderly and disabled residents.
Peter Braybrook spoke passionately to the committee about the plans to redevelop the common rooms.
He said: “I can only speak for East Close but these four community halls were provided by Sanctuary for the residents of what were then sheltered accommodation.
“They provide a guest room for relatives visiting the mainly elderly people to stay in, they also provide a community room with a kitchen facility where lots of things can happen.
“These rooms are not an empty space that is unused and needs converting. They are used by the residents for community and building community is something we’ve all been interested in over the years because people have got further and further apart.
He added: “Many of the residents of East Close who would say this has been a life line for them. I know some who have moved from villages where felt isolated and on their own who have joined in with the activities in the community room and it has given them a new lease on life and lifted them out of depression and loneliness.”
He concluded: “It is a really well used community resource and to lose it would be desperate for some of these people who can’t go far. They can get to the community room by crossing the road but it’s a struggle to get to a bus stop and most of them are away from bus stops as bus services have been cut.
“I will use Sanctuary’s words against them. They have a policy of reducing loneliness and remoteness but what they are doing is they are actually going to be increasing it and I cannot understand how they could do this without consultation and not knowing what goes on in these rooms.”
Labour Cllr Andy Beere said: ”I am in touch with Cherwell planning officers about this and I have warned them in not very diplomatic terms that people are not happy so to speak. I pointed out that, as we know, East Street and St Leonard’s Close have had community rooms there since the bungalows were built.
He added: “I fully understand why you object, Sanctuary clearly haven’t consulted you, they have barely consulted the council, they just plonked a planning application in that appears on agendas. I’m on to it and I’ve already spoke to planning officers and said ‘watch out.”
Banbury Town Council do not have the final say on planning applications but their input and objection to submitted plans carries significant weight.
Other concerns put to the council were the intrusion of the planned bungalows to neighbouring homes and the lack of consultation and any visible notices at any of the four common rooms targeted by the plans.
Conservative Cllrs Colin Clarke and Alister Milne-Home both urged residents to send individual letters of opposition to Cherwell District Council.
Cllr Illot also demanded more information from Sanctuary about their contention that the rooms are not used.
Cllr Beere proposed a motion to oppose the plans on the basis of a loss of community amenities. It passed with cross party support.
To here residents reactions to the plans click here.