EXPANSION plans have been approved for a new wing at a former village workhouse, now used as a care home.

Dorset councillors unanimously backed the 20-bed extension at the Casterbridge Manor care home in Cerne Abbas – despite concerns from the parish council.

Ward councillor Jill Haynes (Chalk Valleys) said she realised she would not be popular with some people in the area by asking for the scheme to be approved – but said she could find no reason to object to it.

She told the area planning committee on Tuesday that the original plans had been amended to take into account some parish council worries about the proposal.

Dorset Echo: Plans for the sitePlans for the site

An agent for the owners, Avatara Inc Ltd, said despite parish council misgivings about over-development of the site and other issues, no residents had been at that meeting and in a subsequent community consultation it conducted the majority of respondents said they were in favour of the expansion plans.

The parish council said they were concerned about the density of the development, the impact of the new building on the listed care home and questioned the need for the extra beds which they said might put additional pressure on local GPs.

The new building will be to the rear of the existing building, reducing the impact on the surrounding landscape, including the famous Cerne Giant hill, almost directly opposite the home.

Dorset Echo: An illustration of the proposed extensionAn illustration of the proposed extension

Avatara says the extension will increase the capacity of the home from 61 to 81 bed spaces and almost double the floor space of the complex. It will also offer work for an additional twenty full-time staff bringing staff numbers to 100 full-time and eight part time.

The application, which also refers to the site as the Cerne Abbas Care Centre, includes an additional 36 parking spaces, four designated for disabled drivers.

The application includes low level external lighting and minimal ‘green roofs’ and timber cladding at a lower height than the existing care home.

Dorset Echo: An aerial view of Casterbridge Manor Care HomeAn aerial view of Casterbridge Manor Care Home

A report to the committee by planning officers had concluded: “The proposed extension is sensitive to its setting, the existing Grade II listed building on site, Scheduled Monument, AONB and Conservation Area. It is considered that the proposed extension is high quality in design and will result in an attractive and sympathetic addition to the existing care home building…Overall, the benefits of allowing the proposal are considered to outweigh the harm caused by allowing an extension to an existing building in the countryside.”