Care home bid approved for Midhurst’s former Grange Centre site

Steve Morley (Ind, Midhurst) asked members if they wanted to 'shoot an arrow of mediocrity into the heart of Midhurst or be more adventurous'.
Steve Morley (Ind, Midhurst) asked members if they wanted to 'shoot an arrow of mediocrity into the heart of Midhurst or be more adventurous'.

Lingering hopes that a supermarket could be built on the former Grange Centre site, in Midhurst, have been dashed by Chichester District Council.

The cabinet met on Tuesday (September 4) and approved a bid for the land to be developed as a care home.

The approval is reliant on the bidder – who was not identified – obtaining the necessary planning permission.

The decision was not welcomed by members of the Midhurst community, the majority of whom had spoken in favour of the land being used for retail.

Midhurst town councillor Margaret Guest, who worked in adult social care in the county for more than 25 years, said there was ‘no evidence’ a care home would improve the economic wellbeing of the community.

She added: “Another care home is not what the Midhurst community requires at this time.

“We have been very clear in our Midhurst Vision what we need in Midhurst to make us a sustainable and vibrant community.”

Steve Morley (Ind, Midhurst) asked members if they wanted to ‘shoot an arrow of mediocrity into the heart of Midhurst or be more adventurous’.

Appealing to them to take more time to consider their options, he added: “If time is money then Chichester District Council is rich and I believe the cabinet can afford to be more innovative at this time.”

It was pointed out that the site had been available since 2014 and the process had not been hurried.

Council leader Tony Dignum (Con, Chichester North) told speakers the council was legally obliged to dispose of its land for the best possible offer.

When asked whether there was actually a need for a care home, he insisted the council did not have to assess demand or research potential uses for the site.

The Grange site has been placed on the market three times.

The first was in 2015, when it was hoped Waitrose would take it on, before a downturn in the retail economic climate saw those plans scrapped.

In 2016, a few offers were received but the cabinet decided that none of them were adequate.

This latest time around attracted 13 offers, with the care home being seen as the most viable option.

Suggestions that the site be marketed for a fourth time were dismissed, with chief executive Diane Shepherd telling members: “If you delay selling this property now and take it to the market again, I think our credibility will be questioned.

“How many times do you keep taking something to market in the hope that something will happen to this piece of land?”