Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Specialist care home due to close

Southmoor House
Southmoor House cares for 24 elderly residents with dementia

A specialist care home in Oxfordshire is to close after the landowner increased the rent ninefold.

Southmoor House, near Abingdon, looks after 24 elderly residents with Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

A spokesperson said not only would the rent make the business uneconomically viable but costly, major alterations were needed to upgrade the building.

St John's College, which owns the land, said it had a duty to make best use of its assets for education and research.

In 2007, the care home was planning to buy the freehold from St John's College, but the deal fell through.

'Devastating effect'

The care home has been operating on the site for more than 60 years and many of the residents have lived there for more than a decade.

Diane Tutton's 85-year-old mother Beryl is cared for at Southmoor House.

She said the closure will have a devastating effect on residents: "They can't remember many things but they know their surroundings, they recognise the faces of the staff who are always affectionate to them, it's like a big happy family.

"We can't really afford to lose homes like this because I've tried to ring round other care homes but anywhere which takes dementia cases has got a waiting list."

In order to compete in the market the property would require major alterations which would be costly and not recoverable over the term of a lease
Southmoor House spokesperson

The care home was originally told residents would have one month to move out, but that date has been extended until 4 February 2010.

A spokesperson for Southmoor House said: "The building is no longer suitable for a modern care home business.

"In order to compete in the market the property would require major alterations which would be costly and not recoverable over the term of a lease.

"Without the security of the freehold we consider it to be an unacceptable risk to make the improvements to the building within the period of lease offered and moreover operate a business where the level of rent suggested by the landlords makes it uneconomically viable."

The family-run business employs 25 carers with specialist training in caring for people with dementia.

In a statement, St John's College said: "The college regrets the loss of any business tenant but, as a charity, the college has a duty and legal responsibility to make best use of its assets to support its programmes of education and research."



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