Charity bosses behind controversial plans to build a neurological care centre in woodland have revealed they are looking for alternative sites.
Sue Ryder withdrew plans last summer for a 62-bed unit within the grounds of it’s current Cuerden Hall facility near Bamber Bridge after deciding further research and reports were needed. It followed opposition from hundreds of people who claim it would destroy ancient woodland and Green Belt.
Change can be distressing for people with highly complex care needs and we believe that building on the land we own at Cuerden Hall would make this transition easier for the residents and their families
Now the charity is working with Chorley Council to identify alternative sites. No locations have been revealed, though Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle mentioned in hustings one site being investigated is near Chorley Hospital.
Despite the new investigations, the charity has insisted that the woodland site is still the most appropriate and available location, and claim 1,000 people have signed a petition in support of that option.
The current Grade II-listed hall does not meet meet modern standards and expectations.
A Sue Ryder spokesperson said: “We have considered a number of alternative sites over the last five years, but none were found to be suitable. For example, some were too small and some were unavailable due to competition from housing developers.
“Change can be distressing for people with highly complex care needs and we believe that building on the land we own at Cuerden Hall would make this transition easier for the residents and their families. Staying at Cuerden Hall will also safeguard the jobs of our 100-strong workforce and volunteers, the vast majority of which live locally.”
He added that as part of the additional work done since last year, the charity has been able to review alternative sites which were not available when they first started the process.
He said: “We are only reviewing sites which may meet our requirements and are considering the suitability of each site in line with our site selection criteria.
“The health and wellbeing of our existing and future residents is always our top priority. We strongly believe that it is in their best interests to build a new care centre in line with our proposed plans, which we are confident constitute ‘very special circumstances.’”
Coun Alistair Bradley, Chorley Council leader, said the authority is also working with owners of sites identified to see if a solution can be found, but a planning application would need to be submitted and permission obtained for any site chosen.
Sarah Elsy of the action group Save Cuerden said members were delighted to hear the news.
She said: “It is great news that Sue Ryder can recognise the strength of local opinion and the value of Ancient Woodland on Green Belt in Cuerden.
“Building here (Cuerden Hall) was never going to be the right place and this way an important ecological site can be saved for future generations and at the same time Sue Ryder can move forward with their plans to improve their fantastic provision of care.”