PLANS for a brand new 50-bed care home in South Molton were revealed for the first time last (Thursday) night. It is hoped that the new facility – to be built on redundant land at Widgery Drive, near South Molton Community Hospital, could help to plug a g

PLANS for a brand new 50-bed care home in South Molton were revealed for the first time last (Thursday) night.

It is hoped that the new facility - to be built on redundant land at Widgery Drive, near South Molton Community Hospital, could help to plug a growing gap for residential and nursing care provision in the town.

The proposals were unveiled at a special public consultation event in the town's Methodist church hall by local firm Eastleigh Care Homes. The new facility, designed by architects from Burritt Holland Ltd, would provide residential and nursing care, as well as specialist dementia care.

Eastleigh - that opened its first care home in the town in the early 1980s, and opened a further home in Minehead in 2005 - has exchanged contacts on the land subject to obtaining planning approval from North Devon Council.

Managing director Garry Wilson told the Gazette that he was hopeful that with planning consent, work could start on the new care home as early as January next year.

"We estimate that the new home would take about a year to build and I'd like to think that if planning goes through, there is a real chance that we could be open in 2011," he said.

"Through the amount of calls we get, we know there is a real need for more facilities like this in South Molton.

"We always run at capacity at our existing home and usually have between five and 10 people on the waiting list.

"The feedback we've received from people at the consultation event has been brilliant; the firm started in South Molton 28 years ago and it will be nice for us to be able to come back here and extend the provision in the town."

The proposals have been welcomed by people in the town, especially in the light of uncertainty surrounding the Devon County Council-run Beech House.

The council intends to redevelop the North Road home into "extra-care" flats and there were fears that the changes would not suit all the residents, and that a rebuild would lead to the temporary displacement of many of the residents.

But plans have stalled after private firm Shaw Healthcare pulled out of a deal to take over all of the council's 26 care homes around the region, in February this year.

South Molton Town Councillor David Worden said that should the Eastleigh Homes plans meet with approval, he hoped the new home would be in place before any changes were made to Beech House.

"This is a good scheme that will provide care in the town for the foreseeable future," he said.

"South Molton can expect around a 30 per cent increase in people over the age of 85 in the next 10 years.

"There is a real need for more care facilities in the town. Any changes at Beech House will enhance the range of services in the town; but if the a new care home can be up and running before anything at all happens to Beech House, then I would be very pleased."