June 5, 2010

UK: University halls could become retirement homes and create 80 jobs

STAFFORDSHIRE, England  / The Staffordshire Sentinel / June 5, 2010

MORE than 80 jobs could be created on the back of plans to build dozens of family homes and a retirement complex in an historic village.

The development involves Keele University selling off its current Hawthorns site in Keele village and building replacement student halls of residence on the campus.

This would free up 12 acres to be transformed into the new residential community. The plans include 71 houses and a mixture of retirement apartments, semi-independent care units and 24-hour nursing care bedrooms.

A public consultation was held at Keele sports centre yesterday, when university officials revealed the new retirement village is likely to create a significant number of jobs.

These will include posts for healthcare workers, catering staff, service managers, and maintenance staff.

Andy Mason, head of projects at Keele University, said: "We would look to start work on campus in about two years. It could be three years before work begins on redeveloping the Hawthorns site.

"The aim is to make it part of Keele village. It will have a village green and a shop."

Other facilities for elderly residents and the wider Keele community could include a restaurant and cafe bar, a library and a hairdresser's.

Planning consultant Phil Gratton said: "People who work at the university, particularly at the science park, could be interested in the houses."

But the plans have received a mixed response. Some villagers are happy that rowdy students will no longer be living on their doorstep, but others fear traffic gridlock.

Janet Boulton, aged 76, from Knights Croft, Keele, said: "The amount of traffic we have at the moment is dreadful. You can't do anything for the cars that are parked on both sides of the road.

"These new houses will include five-bedroom homes and the families who live there will probably have several cars. It's going to be chaos."

Margaret Wilkinson, who is retired, currently lives in the Westlands and is keen to move to the retirement village at Keele with her sister Mary Pool.

She said: "It's a lovely area. There are activities at the university, concerts and a chapel.

"The scheme sounds brilliant. People don't want to be institutionalised. They just want to pursue their ordinary lives for as long as possible, with the prospect of care and companionship."

Jean and Derrick Hough, from the Westlands, are also interested in one of the proposed retirement units.

Mrs Hough, aged 78, said: "We've already looked at places in Madeley and Lichfield. We want somewhere that is comfortable and has a nice atmosphere."

The student halls at Hawthorns cater for 650 students and the plan is to build 454 en-suite bedrooms to replace them.

They would be located in two existing student accommodation complexes on the campus, Barnes and Horwood.

They would be 'in-filled' – built in the spaces between the current blocks – and eventually some of the older Barnes and Horwood accommodation would be demolished.

Jane Corfield lives in Springpool, close to the Horwood site.

She said: "I have two issues with the plans. The first is a practical one, with living next door to another 107 people. Where are they going to park their cars, for instance?

"The other is an aesthetic issue. Keele is a lovely campus.

"We need to hang on to what makes it special and what is special is the green open space."

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