THE community’s response to plans for a ‘care village’ for older people at Inveresk has been described as “overwhelmingly positive”.

A planning application for the care village is expected to be submitted to East Lothian Council during the first half of this year.

This follows a recent public consultation event which was hailed as a success by the company behind the project, Richmond Villages.

Inveresk Village Society and Musselburgh Conservation Society have expressed their intention not to oppose the development, which is earmarked for vacant land at Kirk Park to the rear of Inveresk Church.

Representatives from the groups joined about 50 members of the public at the recent public consultation event at Ravelston House Hotel, Musselburgh.

Richmond Villages, part of Bupa and a founder member of the Associated Retirement Community Operators, is proposing to develop the land. The project would create 150 full and part-time jobs.

The development proposes 168 one and two-bedroom care suites/apartments, 30 frail elderly nursing care beds and 30 dementia care beds together with communal facilities.

A care home would provide long-stay care as well as offering post-operative, re-enablement and respite care.

A restaurant, cafe, library, crafts room and a wellness spa incorporating a swimming pool, exercise studio, treatment rooms and hair and beauty suite are also planned.

Former councillor Barry Turner, village society chairman and conservation society committee member, said that if consent was granted by East Lothian Council it was hoped the project would actually get under way.

He told the Courier: “A consent for a similar scheme was granted in 2010 after urgency was stressed by a different developer and nothing happened.

“As council planning convener at the time, I found this most frustrating.

“I voted for the scheme last time around having had some earlier reservations because the site was allocated for employment use.

“However, there seemed little prospect of such a use coming forward and in any event the care home proposal would provide a number of jobs, as well as other benefits.”

Mr Turner said that other issues had been raised by local people, including the presence of giant hogweed at the site and the need for security against anti-social behaviour when the care village becomes operational.

He added: “I was impressed by the professionalism and good intent of the team putting the proposal forward. I have every confidence that their discussions with the planners, and the planning application when made, will reflect what people have said.”

He highlighted a track alongside the cemetery, outwith the application site, which would be important as an access for care village residents to reach the church and the main part of the village, and for village residents to reach a cafe and shop proposed in the scheme.

Mr Turner, who also serves of the Musselburgh Area Partnership Board, said: “It is a right of way I believe and so can be used but it is not ideal and modest improvements, possibly including lighting, could make it much more usable and safe.”

He added that efforts were being made to find out if the path was public or private as its upgrade was one of the area partnership’s priorities.

A spokesman for Richmond Villages said: “We were delighted with the response from the community consultation. The event was attended by interested local people and the response was overwhelmingly positive. In fact all responses were positive, with 18 consultation forms showing unreserved support and seven forms provided helpful comments or suggestions.

“Most responses cited the need for care facilities locally. We will consider the responses and comments from those people who attended the consultation and, where possible and appropriate, we will adjust and amend our proposals and designs accordingly.

“We will then provide feedback from the consultation to the local planning authority including those changes proposed as a result of the consultation. We hope to lodge a planning application in the first half of 2018.”

Referring to the upgrade of the path, he added: “Whilst this would be a decision for the adjacent landowner and not something within our control, if the landowner was agreeable we would certainly be willing to upgrade the path and maintain it ongoing.”

He said: “There is some giant hogweed present. Whilst this would not affect the proposal it would need to be eradicated as part of the development programme. Locals mentioned that there have been instances of antisocial behaviour on the site centring around a derelict building. However once the site is developed and occupied we have no concerns that such behaviour will re-occur.”

The spokesman explained: “Richmond Villages’ policy elsewhere is that local authority placements are welcome but where the fee falls below the fee required by Richmond - which is based on the care needs of the individual and the type of accommodation - this would need to be topped up by family.”