A CARE home on the edge of the Mendip Hills will be replaced by a new, larger facility following a vote by local councillors.

The Laurels residential care home, run by Country Court Care Ltd., lies on Westfield Lane near the western edge of Draycott, a few miles from Cheddar.

The current care home, which was built in the 1980s and has been extended on several occasions, has been described by the operator as having “undersized” communal spaces, “squeezed” staff and support facilities and room sizes which are “well below current standards”.

To rectify this, the company put forward plans in November 2023 to demolish the existing care home and place it with a larger facility, with the number of bedrooms rising from 21 to 49.

Somerset Council’s planning committee east (which handles major applications in the former Mendip area) has now given the green light to these plans, despite pleas from a local resident to rethink the design of the new building.

The site lies at the western edge of the village, in the shadow of the Mendip Hills national landscape (formerly area of outstanding natural beauty, or AONB) and within easy reach of the crucial A371 between Cheddar and Wells.

The care home is in close proximity to the former Cheddar Valley railway line – meaning it could get easier to walk and cycle to and from the site once the Strawberry Line active travel route is completed.

Under the plans, the care home will be demolished and replaced with a new facility which extends to the north, towards Cross Farm Road and an adjacent site which is allocated within the Mendip Local Plan Part II to deliver up to 33 new homes.

The number of parking spaces being increased from nine to 17, with an additional pedestrian access from the north being provided.

Dunford Roberts spoke out against the plans when the council’s planning committee east met in Shepton Mallet on Tuesday afternoon (May 7).

He said: “The application demonstrates no need for the extra bet spaces. A qualified potential figure in a 2016 document is not a demonstration of an identified local need.”

“This is hardly appropriate to the local context – you can see from the plans the stark difference between the proposed buildings and the local context.”

There is no hiding a new structure crammed onto the existing site. In the words of ‘Flower Of Scotland’, please send the applicant home to think again.”

Several councillors raised concerns about the access to the site, including the level of parking provision within the site and the narrowness of the local roads.

Councillor Martin Lovell (who represents Shepton Mallet) said: “The access from the north side is through a secluded close.

“I can’t see any representation of increase traffic day and night through this area, due to shift patterns.”

Councillor Michael Dunk (Frome West) said: “The new access road to the back looks infeasibly small for fire engines.

“It’s such a long and extended building that you may need to use that.”

Councillor Edric Hobbs (who represents the neighbouring Mendip Hills division) added: “There are 49 beds here – is there enough parking here for medical people and services?”

“My father’s currently in a dementia unit, my mother might be in one in a year or so, and they need lots of medical intervention.”

“This is very different to the extra care facility in Wells – a lot of these facilities seem to try and jam people in with little parking.

”Those lanes are very narrow and there should be more than one electric vehicle charging point.”

Despite these concerns, the committee voted to approve the plans by nine votes to two, with one abstention.