Imperial’s latest Wye3 newsletter contained the news that a potential tenant had been found for the Withersdane campus: the group of buildings just outside the village which used to be home to 200-300 students.
That is now fairly old news and the company in question – called Promis – has exhibited its plans in the Wolfson Hall. Most of the people I’ve talked to in the community have been positive about the idea. On the Internet, I’ve found plenty of high praise for Promis as an organisation.
This morning the director Robin Lefever showed me round Withersdane and answered a few questions. The following is a summary of his replies:
- Promis will initially move patients from its existing facility at Hay Farm near Sandwich.
- These patients pay £4,500, £6,500 and £8,500 per week depending on the level of treatment. They generally stay for two weeks – much shorter than treatment in public health. The aim is to treat patients before their addiction becomes too severe. Most still have jobs or are living with their families so taking more time would be destructive to their lives.
- Two thirds of the patients come from the UK. A third are international patients. Mr Lefever explained that some of the international patients come with members of their families.
- During the day they receive clinically proven therapies. In the evening however, they are provided with a range of extra care which may support these therapies: yoga, meditation, art and music therapy for example. The aim, according to Mr Lefever, is to make sure patients feel pampered and rewarded (for undergoing the therapies) rather than punished in any way.
- Promis currently employ most of their staff in the locality of Hay Farm. The company would be looking to recruit locally in Wye and surrounding villages – both for care positions and for therapists.
- Promis is moving out of its current premises because these premises will not enable any growth.
- At Withersdane, the initial intention is that patients will occupy the 1992 accommodation blocks (the Lloyd’s building?) behind the main house. The CEAS building would be used for treatments. Initially the business will focus on these blocks and on the ground floor of the main house.
- The cottages on the campus however would make ideal accommodation for the family members of international students. He also said that the postgrad accommodation blocks could be rooms where patients could prolong their stays beyond their treatment period (at reduced cost).
- Accommodation is currently a small fraction of the business costs. Hence he feels able to take on a much larger premises. It could be paid for, he said, by contracting one extra patient (presumably over a longish time period…)
- He does not foresee the business growing particularly quickly. At one of his previous sites in Nonnington, it took 10-12 years to grow from 20 to 40 patients. As his company sells to the top end of the market, he feels it’s important for patients to have space. Some patients will stipulate that they don’t want to see anyone else as a condition of their treatment.
- He expressed concern that Withersdane is officially part of the Wye3 development site, and said that this may prove a stumbling block to him taking on the premises. There is also a covenant on the accommodation blocks saying that they have to be linked to the College. (I’ve since been told by Councillor Ovenden that Ashford do not see either of these issues as an impediment.)
The parish council will be discussing the proposal at this evening’s meeting – not because there is any planning application, change of use or indeed anything else that we need to decide. This will be a discussion purely in terms of the impact that this development at Withersdane would have on the development of the rest of Wye3.