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COUNCIL ACTED FAIRLY AND LAWFULLY IN CLOSING RETIREMENT HOME

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Eight pensioners who say the closure of the retirement home where they live may 'hasten their deaths' failed in a h...
Eight pensioners who say the closure of the retirement home where they live may 'hasten their deaths' failed in a high court bid to keep it open.

Some of the 11 residents at the Granby Way home in Plymouth have sworn that they will only leave 'in a box' but a top judge ruled on Friday the city council had acted neither unfairly nor unlawfully.

Mr justice Scott Baker, sitting at London's high court, said there was not enough evidence to support claims by at least three residents that they had been offered 'homes for life' at Granby Way.

He also rejected claims that the closure decision - made in response to the need to shave almost a million pounds from the city's social services budget - amounted to a breach of the pensioner's right to respect for their home and family life under the Human Rights Act.

Lawyers for the five men and three women - aged between 77 and 92 - had told the court that, following the closure of another Plymouth home, called Tory Brook, in June, as part of the same cost-cutting exercise, 10 of the residents had died.

The council denied there was any link between the closure of Tory Brook and the deaths, but counsel for the eight, Miss Jenni Richards, said there was at least a risk that closing down Granby Way might 'hasten the deaths' of ailing residents.

But Mr justice Scott Baker said local authorities often had to make agonising decisions to balance their books and the courts should only intervene in cases of clear illegality.

Evidence from some residents that they had been offered a 'home for life' at Granby Way was not sufficiently 'clear and unequivocal' to bind the city council, he ruled.

The closure decision could not be 'stigmatised as irrational' and the council had been entitled to make it, he added.

The council had carried out an a consultation exercise before deciding on closure in January this year and had 'received back the message loud and clear' that the residents wanted to stay.

But that did not prevent the council lawfully reaching the decision it did, ruled the judge.

'The defendants (Plymouth City Council) have acted neither unfairly nor in error of law and in these circumstances the claim for judicial review fails', he concluded.

The council did not ask for a legal costs order against the eight - Frank Cowl, Peter Monk, Nora Beresford, Florence Downing, George Heard, Evelyn Ellkis, Cyril Cross, and Douglas Blacksell, who the court heard has died since the case was heard.

The residents were refused leave to appeal, but are now planning to seek permission for an appeal hearing directly from the court of appeal.

Mr Roger McCarthy QC, for the city council, said the offer first made in May this year of putting the Granby Way issue before an independent complaints panel remained open.

He added there were no immediate plans to move any of the Granby Way residents and nothing would be done until individual assessments of their care needs had been carried out.

The council undertook not to take any steps to close down Granby Way until after the residents' lawyers have made their intended application to the court of appeal.

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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