OUTRAGED residents blasted the approval of a controversial 66-bed care home which will be built near Royal Wootton Bassett.

Wiltshire Council’s strategic planners unanimously granted permission for the development on land at Marsh Farm with parking for 22 vehicles and upgraded access from Hook Road.

The go-ahead came despite strong objections from residents, Lydiard Tregoze Parish Council and Royal Wootton Bassett Town Council.

Retired firefighter Chris Wannell told the Adver: “I was a Bassett councillor for 41 years and I tried to keep the identity and community spirit of the town alive but Wiltshire Council are doing everything they can to destroy it.

“It’s a disgrace, I’m absolutely furious. I went to the meeting and spoke against the plans but I might as well have spoken to a wall. I realised we were not going to win but we had to fight it.

“My worry is that this approval has set a precedent for development that will affect all of us and could lead to more being built around there. The site is next to a busy hub and isn’t suitable.”

Mr Wannell and fellow local John Eastgate argued the new care home would cause flooding and drainage problems for the nearby Jubilee Lake as well as problems for pedestrians and traffic using Malmesbury Road and Hook Road.

Mr Eastgate said after the Chippenham meeting: “It’s inexplicable that this has been approved, it’s a farce, it’s baffling, it makes no sense whatsoever.

“It goes against the neighbourhood plan, the views of the local council and all the feedback that has been given. It’s a three-storey monstrosity that’s right on the Rural Buffer Zone. I have the feeling that Wiltshire Council had already made its mind up before the meeting and nothing we said would have made a difference.”

Coun Mollie Groom called in the plans for Leda Properties Ltd and Ideal Care Homes because of concerns about the scale of the development, its visual impact and its relationship to the historic Grade 2 listed Marsh Farm.

Coun Groom said the proposed three-storey care home was “the wrong building in the wrong place” and would infill the greenfield buffer zone between Royal Wootton Bassett and Swindon.

She said it would have a significant impact on Marsh Farm, Lydiard Millicent, the nearby village of Hook and the hamlets of Hook Street and Ballard’s Ash.

Coun Groom added: “There is a need to protect the distinct character and identity of the villages and settlements in Wiltshire and in particular those which adjoin the administration of Swindon Borough Council.”

She also asked Wiltshire Council’s strategic planning committee to consider its design and its impact on the highways and the environment.

RWB town councillor David Bowler said: “I feel that Wiltshire Council have not listened to the objections. The main problem is that there have been a number of applications to build on the site over the last few years and the early ones received as many as 100 objections. Residents have been worn down by it all so when only 15 objections were made to the newest one, it didn’t seem that bad.”

A previous hybrid application for a care home and a Lidl retail store was refused by Wiltshire Council and dismissed by the planning inspectorate in Bristol on appeal.

However, planners said the application was “materially different” to that hybrid scheme and that the benefits outweighed the objections.

Alistair Wood, planning manager for Yorkshire-based LNT Group, which includes Ideal Care Homes, said: “There is a clear and demonstrable need for more care home facilities in this area.

“There is a strong and positive need for the new facility, which will create 40-to-50 new full-time equivalent jobs for people from the local area.”

Wiltshire Council’s chairwoman of the Strategic Planning Committee said: “The officer’s recommendation was for approval and there were no good reasons to refuse it.

“There is the proven need to provide care homes, current ones are highly-subscribed and we are all getting ancient, including me.

“I understand why people don’t like it when there are plans to build on a field near them - I would probably feel the same if it was near me - but it is already a built-up area.

“Last time, the plans were refused because of the effect it would have on the landscape as it was included with a supermarket, and there was uncertainty as to whether it would actually be built.

“Now, it’s just the care home and there is a care operator who came to speak to us and made it clear that it would be built.”