Staveley Village lies in the southern part of the lake district, approximately four miles northwest of the market town of Kendal. It is a place steeped in industrial history.
With around 1,600 residents, its location by the River Kent made it an ideal location for milling wool in the 17th and 18th century, which later morphed into bobbin manufacturing. To this day the area has many industries including specialist paper makers and in more recent times, beer production.
The village has many businesses which support families and the long-established community who until recently had its own care home. The Abbey provided residential care for those who live in the village or surrounding catchment area of Ings, Kentmere and surrounding parishes.
The Abbey is a grand old building that sits at the heart of the village – a record at the National Archives states that:
“The Abbey Home – A few years ago the handsome mansion known by the name of the Abbey, the residence of the Johnson family, was purchased by the Kendal Guardians for the purposes of a Children’s Home. About 32 children are at present being cared for, from the age of three years upwards. John R. Caton, superintendent; Dr. Dick, medical officer. The home for children was closed in 1956.”
Once the Abbey became a care home, for local residents it came to be an emotional and physical focus point as so many people’s loved ones have been residents at the home for their last years. It was where older members of our community thought they’d end up when they could no longer cope at home.
After a failed fire audit, the Cumbria County Council took the decision to close this home, due to the amount of investment needed to bring it up to modern standard.
The controversial decision was made to close the home in 2020 after a public consultation where the local residents overwhelmingly opted for a replacement to provide 16 extra-care public apartments, which would have a dedicated team onsite to provide support where needed and a ten-bed residential provision which would include some accommodation for live-in carers at affordable rent.
We know that the social care sector in England (and UK as a whole) has been in crisis for some time and the county council decision to close the home will only add to the current difficulties.
A recent example reported on 4 January by I news described a situation where three NHS areas in the South West of England were booking out hotel rooms run by private health providers for patients with non-critical needs due to shortage of social care provision.
This example alone shows the level of need within social care.
Now, the future looks bleak for so many people who live in Staveley. Their choices are to struggle at home, which may not suit their care needs, or leave their homes, friends and families for places far from the village.
Local campaign starts
Staveley residents and the wider community didn’t give up! They have sprung into action, creating a campaign group which has now become a community trust. The Staveley Community Trust, secured a bank account and launched its website on 11 October 2022.
According to Fran Richardson chair of the Staveley Community Trust, “The County Council didn’t listen and told the trust they were unable to provide the new proposed care provision”. This is a blow to all those who live in the catchment area of Ings, Staveley, Kentmere and surrounding parishes.
Members of the community responded by requesting a Community Asset Transfer of the building and submitted a detailed, fully costed business plan in October 2021. The proposal was developed with the help of an architect, surveyor and local care providers (Alex Wolfenden from The Oaklea Trust and Josh Macauley from Westmoreland Home Care).
A new vision
The proposed plans include a social area, dining room and kitchen, other spaces for activities – e.g. ‘men in sheds’ with extra rooms for physio treatment and other kinds of support.
Some of the architects’ drawings can be found here.
The trust managed to secure a grant of a £260,000 from the Community Led Housing Fund from South Lakeland District Council to help further develop the plans. The grant was for a range of predevelopment work such as preparing for a planning application, advising on grant funding, more community engagement, advice from housing and care professionals to build the model.
The trust had gone through a lengthy process to identify building professionals and architects to co-ordinate this phase of the work.
Find out more here about the grant in general.
Community vs Cumbria County Council
Cumbria County Council promised support and guidance so the trust could continue to implement its plans, however, even though the trust wrote to the county council about once a month for the last 18 months the Trust have not heard back.
On 12 October 2022, they heard the shattering news that Cumbria County Council had rejected the request for Community Asset Transfer and said they intended to put the building up on the open market.
Despite an appeal of this decision and objections with good explanations to argue the case, Cumbria County Council didn’t listen yet again, and now sadly the building has been put on the open market for the highest bidder.
“Suddenly we are in a race against time with a sale deadline of January 18th. The Abbey is advertised as ‘having development potential subject to planning’. The community have repeatedly told us they need the Abbey to cater for the elderly.
“We have used the County Councils own evidence to show them that our rethinking and re-design of the Abbey meets this need. We will fight against any proposed change of use and we will pull out all the stops to buy the premises.” – Fran Richardson, chair of Staveley Community Trust
How you can help
For any of our readers who would like to challenge members of Cumbria County Council on this matter should write to:
- Community transfer: Allan Harty, Assistant Director, Cumbria CC ([email protected])
- Leader of the Cumbria County Council: Stewart Young ([email protected])
The local Parish Councillors are fully behind the Abbey proposal along with Ali Jama, Hazel Hodgson and Pat Bell who represent the interests of Staveley and the Abbey on South Lakeland Council.
Westmorland and Furness Shadow Council will become the new unitary authority in control from April 2023. The Staveley Community need to show them how determined they are to secure the Abbey and develop it.
The immediate challenge is to secure sufficient funds to secure the property – the trust needs to raise £250,000 by 18 January.
So far, the community have pledges £109,573 and a commitment from an anonymous donor of £100,000 in total so far have raised £209,573 there is a shortfall of £40,427 to reach before the deadline of 18 January 2023
If any of our readers are able to contribute to the cause, the crowdfunder page is here.
We need your help!
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