Horndon-on-the-Hill community: "We are in favour of a Hospice in Thurrock but this is the wrong site."

THE RESIDENTS of Horndon have made their feelings plain about the plans for a hospice as well as a number of luxury homes in the Lower Dunton Road area.

The Horndon Community Forum has written a very detailed letter explaining why they feel so strongly about the application.

We have re-printed it in full.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Re Planning application for a development of 50 four/five bedroom houses and a Hospice on Green Belt land:- ref 14/00990/FUL Malgraves Farm, Lower Dunton Road, Horndon on the Hill

This development proposal has been discussed at great length at the Horndon Society/Community Forum open public meetings and the clear view expressed is as follows:-

We are in favour of a Hospice in Thurrock but this is the wrong site. A hospice is a ‘people’ institution, namely patients, families, staff, support workers and visitors.

This site:-

1) Is not on a bus route.

2) Is not on a safe cycling route.

3) There are no safe walking routes – no footpaths, narrow roads, blind corners

4) Is off a small rural road with access to the A13 via a dangerous junction (Lower Dunton Road/B1007).

5) No connecting public transport. The nearest station is at Stanford-le-Hope over 4 miles away. The nearest bus route is at Horndon on the Hill Village one mile away. There are no safe walking routes to connect with either, see 3).

6) The developers have suggested that Trans-Vol would provide the public transport solution. This service is already limited, but the proposed removal of Trans-Vol’s grant by Thurrock Council is likely to severely impact any service they could provide.

7) This site is not only in the Green Belt, but is on the rising ground of Langdon Hills. If it is necessary to sacrifice some Green Belt land for a hospice development, some less precious Green Belt land should be chosen.

There is a lot of flat, less scenic, less interesting Green Belt land in Thurrock that should be sacrificed before losing this site. Building the houses and hospice on high ground is much more visually intrusive.

Langdon Hills was bought by Essex County Council in the 1930’s under Green Belt Rules to prevent development. Since then the local population has increased dramatically with the creation of Basildon New Town, Chafford Hundred and the enlargements of Stanford, Corringham, Laindon etc. Langdon Hills Country Park has increased only marginally in area.

If any change to the status of the land covered by this application should be made, it should be to incorporate more of this high, visually valuable scenic land into an enlarged Country Park.

8) This development would destroy one of the best unspoilt views in Thurrock. From the bridleway between Plotlands and Langdon Hills, the folds in the landscape and the rural appearance of this Green Belt land provides a view that could be in rural Devon rather than industrial/residential Thurrock. This development is slap-bang in the middle of this view.

9) A Thurrock Hospice should be located near the centre of Thurrock’s population and not on the extreme North/East border of Thurrock, less than three miles from the existing hospice site.

To put it in context, this site is less than half a mile from the Basildon border, approximately half a mile from the Brentwood boundary, but more than twelve and a half miles from Purfleet in the West of Thurrock.

A suitable site for a Thurrock Hospice should have both easy public transport access for Patients, Visitors and Staff and also good road access, suitable not only for Patients, Visitors and Staff, but also for the delivery lorries for supplies/laundry etc. The cost of a taxi from Aveley to Lower Dunton Road is over £50.

10) A Thurrock Hospice for Thurrock or for Brentwood? The Brentwood Gazette reported on the 3rd of April 2014 that it has in its possession a letter from the Brentwood and Basildon Clinical Commissioning Group expressing the intention to transfer palliative care for Brentwood from Saint Francis Hospice to St Luke’s Hospice as a cost cutting measure.

Does this explain why St Luke’s is keen on this location on the edge of Thurrock close to the Brentwood boundary? Providing a service for Brentwood has not been mentioned in any of the promotional material that has been submitted in support of this application.

Are Thurrock Council aware that they may be sacrificing Thurrock Green Belt for the benefit of Brentwood?

11) It has been stated that this site has been identified by Thurrock Council as the preferred location for a new hospice alongside 50 new homes. We cannot believe, in view of the disadvantages listed above, that an open unbiased appraisal of the borough could possibly result in the choice of this as the ‘preferred location’.

The Council’s "Site Specific Allocations and Policies Local Plan, Site Assessment – High Level Sieve January 2013" comments that the site was:-"Rejected at previous stages of the plan and pre-submission SHLAA stage" because "No public transport or community facilities nearby" and "Conflicts with existing Core Strategy policies"

If due process has been followed, there must have been a very strong case demonstrated and documented to cause a U-turn from "Rejection" to "Preferred Location". It has also been stated that the Council instructed Council Officers to investigate possible locations for a new hospice.

The Echo on 14th May 2014 reported that another landowner, three years ago, offered an alternative site for a hospice in the centre of the borough in an easily accessible location on two bus routes. The Echo asked the Council for a comment and reportedly was told "The Council has not expressed any preference, at this time, for the location of this development."

The Society/Forum submitted a Freedom of Information Request to find out if ‘due diligence’ was demonstrated by the Council in the process of this site finding its way into Thurrock Council’s Draft Local Development Plan. We are working through the documents referenced in the reply but, so far, have found little evidence of a systematic, comprehensive and logical process being followed to guide the decision making process.

12) The site is not suitable for a large residential development for many of the same reasons above. In addition there are no local shops and the nearest schools are only accessible by car. Horndon and Bulphan Schools are already at capacity. Because of the lack of public transport, footpaths or cycle routes children will be ‘imprisoned’ on this estate and will have to be ferried in and out by car.

To summarise, a Hospice is needed for Thurrock but this is the wrong site. Government policy states that Green Belt should be released for building only in exceptional cases. The disadvantages of this site prevent this from being such an exception.

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