Hotel in Epping Forest could become care home

The Whipps Cross Hospital catchment area needs about 1,200 new care home beds in the next ten years

By Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

Plans for the new care home (credit: LDRS)

A hotel in the middle of Epping Forest may soon be replaced with a new 122-room care home for Waltham Forest’s growing elderly population.

Last night, care home operator Care Concern Group revealed plans for the redevelopment of Epping Forest Hotel, which is in South Woodford but lies just inside the borough’s border.

The plans would entail knocking down the current hotel building, which has 99 rooms, in order to rebuild it in a way more suitable for residents suffering from cognitive impairment.

During an informal briefing to planning committee members yesterday (7th February), the care group’s development manager Andrew Brett said the Whipps Cross Hospital catchment area needs about 1,200 new care home beds in the next ten years.

He added: “The hotel has not been doing particularly well, so we see it as a good opportunity in the borough.”

Epping Forest Hotel (credit: Google Streetview)

Currently, the hotel is advertising its 99 rooms, venue and banqueting hall ”on exclusive use basis” and individual rooms cannot be booked online.

The team quoted the council’s strategic housing market assessment prediction that the number of residents aged over 65 will almost double to 51,000 between 2014 and 2039.

The designs show residents’ bedrooms grouped into small “communities”, with access to hydrotherapy, shops, a cinema and a beauty salon elsewhere in the building.

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Andrew added: “The design would reduce loneliness and falls – which are two of the greatest concerns for people of this age. The hotel would be replaced with a more attractive building[…] with greener landscaping.

“Whilst we do acknowledge the need for the council to deliver sufficient housing[…] many older people tend to under occupy larger properties.”

The site is in the Green Belt, meaning it is subject to strict planning laws, and is surrounded by Epping Forest’s ancient woodland. However, the development team said Waltham Forest Council’s planning department has indicated it “could support” the proposals following several private pre-application consultations.

Despite the “good location”, Andrew also claimed rooms would be priced similarly to other local care homes at “about £1,300 a week”.

Planning committee chair Jenny Gray and member Keith Rayner both remarked that plans for 22 parking spaces and 18 overflow spaces may be an issue.

Cllr Rayner said: “Whilst I would never suggest that the council’s portfolio holder for the environment [Councillor Clyde Loakes] is an absolute tyrant, he will get serious about projects this size that aren’t being seen as car free. We do get projects this size where, literally, there are only ten parking bays.”

Andrew said the number of spaces planned was “around 50%” of what a traditional care home outside London would have, as an estimated 55 staff could be on-site at one time and the site has limited public transport links.

According to a report submitted by planning consultants Nexus, there would be about 270 car trips to the site each day. Nexus argue this would be a “reduction” on the current use of the hotel, despite earlier arguing it is not doing well.

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