A LONG-RUNNING campaign to re-imagine a former council-run care home into a community hub and facility for the elderly has received a boost after an application to change the vacant building’s use to offices was refused.

The Abbey in Staveley was closed by Cumbria County Council in 2020 due to the prohibitive costs of keeping it operative.

Since April 2022 volunteers from the Staveley Community Trust (SCT) have campaigned tirelessly, with strong local support, to bring the building back into use and have advocated a plan to create a facility for community use and 16 accessible flats for local elderly people.

An application was submitted to the Lake District National Park Authority in January by David Brockbank, a supporter of SCT’s campaign, to change the use of The Abbey to offices.

Trust secretary Deborah Michel said she thought he was 'testing the waters'.

The proposal has been refused, with the planner’s report saying: "In this case, there is obviously a public appetite to retain the facility for the benefit of the community of Staveley as illustrated by the 41 letters of objection to the change of use.

"The Abbey's use as a care facility is not redundant, given the community has prepared and costed this plan and there is great determination to make it work.

"Evidence justifying the loss of the facility is entirely absent from the application submission, unsurprisingly given that the applicant appears to support the continued use as a community facility."

READ MORE: Campaign group plea for council talks as bid to buy ex-care home rejected

Deborah said that the campaign is now back and track after a period of 'limbo' before the building was transferred from Cumbria County Council to Westmorland and Furness Council (WFC), and taken off the market.

"WFC contacted us, and we had a very positive meeting with Pam Duke, Director of Resources, and Jonathan Brook, leader of the council", she said.

"We're hoping that they'll reconsider a community asset transfer to us, which would be ideal, as it would allow us to use the money we've raised to develop the building rather than buy it.

"Staveley is such a wonderful and unique place to live, with so many fantastic businesses and a range of ages, it's imperative that we keep that balance.

"The idea is that if we can offer accessible housing for older people already in our community who currently live in family homes, it will free up housing stock for families.

"It's vital we keep our older people in the community, and we think this is a novel way to do this.

"The old county council previously said they couldn't officially support our idea because it hadn’t been done before, but if you look at the crisis in the care sector, it's obvious that new ideas are needed."