CONVERSION of Scorton hospital to a nursing home, Alzheimer's unit and old people's flats would open up a new chapter in the village's life, a senior councillor has said.

Proposals by the Hospitaller Order of St John of God and Bowood Care to redevelop the whole hospital site were approved in principle by Richmondshire District Council's environment and planning committee on Tuesday .

Coun Michael Heseltine, ward member for Scorton and a former chairman of the authority, said the decision ended months of uncertainty for the community.

The main building would be turned into 57 sheltered apartments for the elderly, while modern extensions and other buildings, including the boiler house and operating theatre, would be demolished to make way for a 60-bed Alzheimer's unit and a nursing home.

The deconsecrated chapel would be turned into day space for the nursing home and a day centre for a learning disabled group. Four "open market" apartments could be created on the upper floors of the St Claire's building.

Seventy parking places would be provided and the memorial garden would be kept for use by residents.

Further discussions and amendments were needed but planners were given delegated authority to agree these, along with senior council members.

The design of an extension, parking, landscaping, materials, flood risk assessment and arrangements for contractors are still to be finalised. Measures are also needed to protect a colony of bats in one of the buildings.

Last year, proposals to convert the hospital site to housing were rejected by the council, which was concerned about a lack of nursing and care facilities in the area.

Planners told this week's meeting that the proposed assisted living units were not classed as normal housing and, as such, did not breach the council's policy of limiting village housing schemes to four units.

Coun Heseltine said the scheme would provide much-needed care facilities, rescue the historic buildings and provide the equivalent of 135 full-time jobs.

Continued on page 3