Changes to controversial children's home plans in Northumberland

A decision is due on changes to a controversial bid for a new Northumberland children’s home which was originally rejected by councillors.

By Ben O'Connell
Monday, 1st February 2021, 4:58 pm

The charity wants to use the four-bedroom East Farm Cottage, which it has already purchased, to house three eight to 18-year-olds, with the focus being eight to 12-year-olds, while the fourth bedroom would be for a member of staff.

It was recommended for approval at the committee meeting in February 2020, having been deferred two months earlier to seek more information.

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The property in Guide Post which is to be converted into a children’s home.

However, the proposal was eventually turned down by six votes to three on the basis of highway safety, the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour, and the lack of parking.

Planning officers had warned against this, because the council’s highways team had no objections, while a similar case elsewhere in the region, which was refused based on police concerns about antisocial behaviour, was overturned on appeal due to lack of evidence. In this case, the police had not even expressed any concerns.

The charity therefore submitted an appeal in late May, which was upheld by planning inspector Diane Cragg, who concluded that ‘the proposal would not have a detrimental effect on the living conditions of adjacent residents’.

In her decision notice, from September 2020, she added: ‘The courts have held that the fear of crime can be a material consideration. However, there must be some reasonable evidential basis for that fear.’

The property in Guide Post which is to be converted into a children’s home.

Now, Action for Children wants to vary two of the conditions which the inspector attached to the planning permission.

This latest application seeks to relocate an outbuilding to provide parking provision into the rear garden, due to conflicting ownership issues with the front boundary wall.

This issue had been called into question by opponents, but councillors were told that the disagreement over who owns the wall had to be resolved outside the planning process.

The second change sought would allow the facility to house not just children from the Northumberland County Council area, but from ‘the wider Tyne and Wear conurbation’, defined as including the local authorities of Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, County Durham and Gateshead.

The property in Guide Post which is to be converted into a children’s hom

The bid has attracted six objections, but is recommended for approval at the Monday, February 8, meeting of the local area council.

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