The Chiltern Centre, the respite centre for young people (16-30) with disabilities on Greys Road reported it has over 20 families on its waiting list who want to use the facilities at their AGM on Friday and Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) are being slow to respond to their offer of their land or give access to their land so that they can progress their plans to build a new purpose built, larger centre on Phase 2 of Highlands Park.
The sale of the land will go towards the cost of the new centre which is estimated to be around £3.5m. The Charity is in ongoing discussions with OCC about the potential sale of their land to them.
OCC own the adjacent land, formerly occupied by the Chilterns End Care home which closed and moved to Chilterns Court Care Home next to Townlands in 2016. The site was identified in the Joint Neighbourhood Plan 2016 to be developed for 27 residential units. In the JNP Review in 2020, a proposal was put forward for 37 units (10 extra smaller units) or 70 extra care assisted living units for older residents which were not taken forward. In 2019 when County Councillor, Stefan Gawrysiak called for some action on the sale of the site, Order of St John Care Trust who ran Chilterns End confirmed that OCP (Oxfordshire Care Partnership – a joint venture between OSJCT (the care provider) and bpha (the social housing provider)) had a lease with OCC until 2061. They said at the time the “parties are in negotiation so that the site can be returned to the Council and the lease terminated early. We hope the matter will be resolved soon.” The site is understood to be worth in the region of £5m and the County Council are still incurring costs for security of the site.
The charity have had a good fundraising year, received two substantial legacies plus a business interruption insurance claim which means that they already have £800k designated for the new build.
They are currently working on an agreement with Crest Nicholson for an acre piece of land at Highlands Park and they hope to have control and access to this in 1-2 years, depending on the planning application process. The charity, with the help of an architect have drawn up initial plans that include a totally accessible larger 8-bed centre for 16-30 year olds which hopefully will be built within 3-4 years.
Centre Manager, Gareth Groves also outlined the activities the young people had enjoyed over the last year at the AGM which included supporting work experience at Vana Trust Farm, music therapy, weekends away at Butlins and Calvert Trust in Exmoor, a disability activity centre which offers adventurous activities that include zip wiring and abseiling. The centre has also purchased a flex digital table which offers interactive activities and is accessible for all the young people visiting the centre.
We asked OCC for a statement, to date we haven’t received a reply. We will publish this as and when we receive it.