Sanctuary threat to heart of Banbury communities

East Close residents sit down for a fish and chip dinner in the under threat common room NNL-180105-134808001
East Close residents sit down for a fish and chip dinner in the under threat common room NNL-180105-134808001

Sanctuary Housing has come under fire for submitting plans to the council to convert four highly-valued communal buildings into bungalows.

In plans submitted to Cherwell District Council, the housing association is looking to convert the four buildings at sites across Banbury.

The buildings house a kitchen, spare bedroom for use by visitors’ guests and large common rooms.

Supporters see the communal rooms as offering a lifeline to residents as their only outlet for social interaction, often the scene of bingo evenings, fish and chip dinners and seated exercise classes.

Located within close-knit communities that cater to elderly and disabled residents the fear is closure would mean increased isolation for the most vulnerable people housed within them.

Jill Crisp who has been a resident on East Close for the past four years, told the Banbury Guardian: “When I came here I had just lost my husband.

“The lady who lives next door brought me over here to meet people and I just continued. I’ve made some lovely friends and it just got me through my bereavement.”

She added: “It’s very important and it still is to this day, not just for me but for all of us.”

It is a sentiment echoed at all four communities who may lose their common room with one Sterling Court resident describing the proposed plans as ‘disgraceful’.

Sanctuary Housing said in a statement: ‘There is an increasing demand for housing locally and we have put forward a proposal to Cherwell District Council to convert the common rooms at these schemes into additional, much-needed accommodation. We have informed residents in writing about our proposals and have reassured them that they will have the opportunity to provide feedback and offer their thoughts.”

East Close residents, however, disagree and were shocked by the submission of the plans.

Jill said: “For Sanctuary to do it and we didn’t have a letter until they day we’re talking about it. It was just such a shock. We’ve not heard from the council, we’ve not seen any plans and there’s no notice outside.”

Former warden for the East Close community, Sue Bacon, added: “If you haven’t got this you haven’t got the hub of the community here.

“It cuts away vulnerable people. We have quite a few who walk here. I spoke to Sanctuary who told me we will still have a common room but it will be over at Levonot Close, so peopple with frames, people who can’t walk well, they can’t go.

“If they can’t get out during the week and speak to someone it becomes a very lonely place, and when they get lonely the elderly deteriorate.”

Cherwell District Council’s planning committee will have the final word on the proposed developments but Banbury Town Council discussed the potential closures at a planning meeting yesterday evening.

The four Banbury communities affected and the planning reference numbers are; East Close, Grimsbury 18/00409/F, Erica Close, Hardwick 18/00382/F, Sterling Court, Bretch Hill 18/00386/F and St Leonards Close, Grimsbury 18/00416/F.