£22 million charity hub within green belt

Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People (QEF) is to create a £22 million campus near Leatherhead. It will provide disabled people with care and rehabilitation together with sport and leisure facilities. Jonathan Powell, QEF’s chief executive says, “Our vision is of a centre of excellence that is a destination of choice for disabled, vulnerable, disadvantaged people, and organisations that provide services for them.”

QEF works with people who have physical and learning disabilities or acquired brain injuries, to help them gain new skills and increase independence for life. The charity has been based at the same site for nearly 80 years. During this time, the services provided by the charity have changed. As a result some facilities have become outdated.
Several of the buildings are no longer fit for purpose and cannot be used. A complete overhaul of the site was long overdue.

Developer Welbeck Land helped QEF to secure planning permission for the new campus. Seventy-six new homes are to be built as an enabling development to fund the upgrade of the charity’s facilities. Welbeck is also managing the sale of the development. Managing Director, Alistair Watson explains, “Securing planning consent was the first step to generating the substantial revenue required for QEF to fund its new facilities and buildings.”

Special circumstances
QEF’s site lies within the green belt. Although it had already been developed, the local planning authority had to be reassured that very special circumstances would be met to grant consent. The charity successfully demonstrated that the redevelopment was essential for it to continue to offer unique services, benefiting the wider community. It made the compelling case that the new facilities and housing would take up a similar footprint to existing buildings.

Motion adds, “The planning officers did not support the application at first, due to poor public transport links and the fact that the site was in the green belt. There are no direct public transport services to Leatherhead town centre, but QEF already runs a shuttle bus for its staff and clients. To overcome the objection, we recommended an enhanced service to improve travel sustainability for residents and visitors.”

An abridged version of this article first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Insight.

Image copyright: LOM architecture and design

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