PEOPLE in South Molton have started a petition to help safeguard nursing, respite and day care services for elderly folk in the town. Signatures are being collected by service users and their families who fear care services may be lost following news that

PEOPLE in South Molton have started a petition to help safeguard nursing, respite and day care services for elderly folk in the town.Signatures are being collected by service users and their families who fear care services may be lost following news that Beech House looks set to be demolished and replaced by supported living flats.A petition being delivered to Devon County Council on September 23 has already attracted more than 1,000 names, with 600 added during a four-hour spell by campaigners at South Molton Pannier Market.David Goodman, whose mother-in-law receives around-the-clock care at Beech House, said that there was widespread concern about what would happen to residents who relied on full-time support."The vast majority of the 40-or-so residents won't be able to cope in extra care flats," he said."My own mother-in-law is partially blind and has trouble walking; she needs 24-hour care."Many have families and even elderly husbands and wives in the town; some are petrified that they could be moved out of South Molton. "The extra care flats are a different concept altogether; we're not saying don't build them, but please, please leave us with some of the facilities that we have got at the moment."North Devon Cllr Sue Sewell said the petition would be available in the town's tourist information office for the next three weeks."Anyone wanting to express their concerns, either by adding their name to the petition, or writing their comments in a letter can do so - and we will pass this all on to the county council," said Cllr Sewell.Beech House is one of 24 homes that Devon County Council is set to transfer to Shaw Healthcare after reaching an outline agreement with the private firm last month.Plans currently on the table propose that the existing home be demolished and redeveloped to make way for 40 "extra care" flats for older people with nursing needs.The council said the flats would be specifically designed for those with care needs and would enable residents to keep as much of their independence as possible, but with 24-hour care on hand if they need it. Devon County Council spokesperson Mike Bomford said that there would be no change to the current service at Beech House until redevelopment, which is planned to start subject to final negotiations with Shaw Healthcare, in March 2010. "The redevelopment proposals are to create extra care flats, for sale and rent with Devon County Council and North Devon Council having nomination rights," he said."Extra care housing is specially designed for people with care needs where care is available on site 24-hours-a-day to meet as much or as little need as necessary."Mr Bomford said the design of the accommodation would enable people to maintain their independence, in their own homes, for as long as possible."We are continuing to keep staff, residents and their families and carers, informed of progress," he added. "We have explained to residents that as we move towards the redevelopment date, we will be talking with them about their options for alternative care provision in the area while redevelopment work is underway on site. "It may well be that the extra care accommodation, once finished, is suitable for some of the current residents, in which case that would be considered."Burrow House in Ilfracombe is in line for a similar re-build, while Oakwell in Barnstaple has been earmarked as the site of a brand new state-of-the-art 56-bed home for people with nursing needs, from June 2012.Fairlea in Bideford is looking at a new 66-bed residential home for older people with nursing needs, plus those with dementia.An uncertain future still awaits Woodland Vale in Torrington and Lydiate Lodge at Lynton, which have no definite plans at present.COUNTY Councillor Andrea Davis has been working with the council and public organisations to arrange a series of meetings with the aim of retaining a community use for Lydiate Lodge."Discussions are ongoing and I am optimistic but it is too soon to say more as yet," she said."Lynton and Lynmouth are isolated and news of the Lodge has been a blow to local people.