Dozens of objections to new children's home planned for Northumberland

Plans to build a new children’s home on a former school site could get the green light next week despite community concerns.

By Ben O'Connell
Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 6:00 am

Northumberland County Council’s application for the construction of a four-bedroom house as a care facility in Hadston is recommended for approval at the Tuesday, November 3, meeting of the strategic planning committee.

The proposed home would ‘provide care facilities for up to four persons together with communal/shared living and cooking facilities, games room, offices, store, utility/laundry and plant area’ on the plot of the former caretaker’s property at Druridge Bay Community Middle School, which was demolished a number of years ago following its closure in 2011.

The application has to be decided by councillors because it is a bid by the local authority itself, but it has also attracted significant community interest, sparking 54 objections plus 16 letters of support and the backing of East Chevington Parish Council.

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The site of the proposed development

Many of the concerns relate to the impact on other residents, including fears of crime and antisocial behaviour.

The supporting statement explains that this ‘is not a secure home, nor a home for a young person being placed under any criminal orders’, but simply for four children or young people who are unable to live with parents due to safeguarding concerns.

The planning officer’s report, which recommends approval, states: ‘The strength of feeling from the local residents in respect of this proposal is fully understood, however, issues such as perceived behavioural matters, vulnerable tenants, antisocial behaviour, substance abuse or a number of similar uses within the area are not recognised as material considerations.’

It later adds: ‘Based on the identified case law and local police comments, there should not be significant weight afforded to the fear and perception of anti-social behaviour, without any evidence.’

Similar community fears were seen recently in relation to plans for a new children’s home on the eastern edge of Guide Post.

Action for Children’s application to change the use of a residential property was refused by the Castle Morpeth Local Area Council in February 2020, against the advice of planning officers.

But that scheme has now been approved on appeal 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, 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.’

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