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SANDWELL: Walker Grange set to be upgraded

SANDWELL: Walker Grange set to be upgraded

Copyright Rhi Storer

A much-loved care home has had approval from the council to renovate after a long campaign by family members to stop its closure.

In an emotional cabinet meeting at Sandwell council on Thursday afternoon, councillors unanimously approved a report to look into significant investment into Walker Grange and provide modern dementia-friendly facilities.

It is hoped the improvements to the care home will allow an additional eight placements for people with dementia and an additional ten placements for people with deliberating needs.

The cost of the investment into the care home’s buildings over the next ten years is £746,500, according to a cabinet report seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

Cllr Suzanne Hartwell (Labs, Oldbury) and cabinet member for adults, social care and health spoke in the meeting and said: “The recommendations I approve to cabinet is that the  outcome of the consultation be noted, and approval is given to option three, as preferred option for Walker Grange, to ensure it is fit for purpose, to provide extra care, and to meet the changing needs of older people, including those with dementia.”

Speaking after the meeting, she said: “I feel like I am flying, I haven’t got words to describe how I am feeling at the moment. I am so excited as it’s not just about today, it’s about the future of Walker Grange.”

It comes after a 12-week consultation, running from September 1 to November 23, was brought to a close one week early after Sandwell council announced it would instead vote to upgrade the home’s facilities.

Three options were unveiled in the public consultation: do nothing, close Walker Grange and transfer tenants to nearby Willow Gardens care home, or upgrade the facilities.

In a full council meeting on October 12, councillors debated whether to reconsider and remove the option of closure for Walker Grange care home.

But the call to remove the closure option was defeated, despite a large number of angry residents in attendance who cried out that the decision was ‘rubbish’.

Out of 153 people who responded to the consultation’s question about the future of Walker Grange, 124 (81%) wanted an upgrade of the care home.

A total of 28 respondents stated they would prefer to do nothing, and only one person was in favour of closure.

Diane Anderson-Smith, 47,  the main organiser of the Save Walker Grange campaign, cried in the public gallery as she heard the news.

As the soundtrack to Queen’s ‘We Are The Champions’ played outside, Ms Anderson-Smith said: “I am absolutely jubilant. I cannot believe this has happened.

“It’s been a long and epic journey to get to where we are. People power works. We never thought that the council would turn around and upgrade Walker Grange. I cannot believe it.”

Cllr Archer Williams (Cons, Prince’s End) said: “I’ve been honoured to be able to play a leading role in the Save Walker Grange campaign.

“This kind of community effort is rare and is a great example of how people can cause authorities to do their will and represent their needs, even when they do not want to.

“This result was looking impossible four months ago, and I was very worried when the council rejected my motion to remove the close option.

However the campaign continued on and after a long, emotional, and hard fought journey, we now have the result we want and the Walker Grange residents and people of Tipton need. We did it.”

This is not the first time Sandwell council has u-turned after political pressure.

In June this year, Goldicroft Park, located in Wednesbury, previously underwent a consultation to develop the green space into housing. Following local outcry, council leader Rajbir Singh (Labs, Bristnall) announced that a homes plan for the park would not go ahead.

Walker Grange care home, is made up of 39 one-bed apartments properties. There are currently 22 tenants at the care home.

Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter


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