Plans for children's care home in Northumberland village approved despite 133-signature petition

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Plans to build a residential care home for children in Hadston have been approved despite concerns raised by the local community.

Northumberland County Council intends to construct a four-bedroom house on the plot of the former caretaker’s property at Druridge Bay Community Middle School, which closed in 2011 and later demolished.

The scheme attracted 54 objections and a 133-signature petition raising concerns about the lack of consultation and fears that it could result in an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour.

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Julie Smith, one of the objectors, told a meeting of the council’s strategic planning committee: “An application submitted in a national lockdown prevents residents from meeting to discuss the impact of such a significant impact in this small neighbourhood.”

The site of a proposed children's care home in Hadston.The site of a proposed children's care home in Hadston.
The site of a proposed children's care home in Hadston.

Cllr Scott Dickinson, member for Druridge Bay ward, said the lack of community engagement had created ‘animosity’ towards the proposal.

"Had an open process of engagement been used, many residents may not have the concerns they have,” he said.

Rob Murfin, director of planning, acknowledged the concerns but said the council had followed government advice in proceeding with planning applications during the pandemic.

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Assurances were also given that it would not be a home for young criminals, while Northumbria Police had raised no concerns.

There were also 16 letters of support.

Members unanimously approved the scheme, which will provide care facilities for up to four children up to the age of 18. No emergency placements will be accepted.

The home would operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year supported by on average three members of staff.

A report to councillors stated: ‘The aim is to provide a safe family home from home environment in a non-institutionalised way to help the most vulnerable children and young people recover from adverse childhood experiences, injustice, deprivation and inequality.’

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Cllr Jeff Reid said: “I am supportive but it looks a bit like an institution. I would have preferred it to look more like a house.

"If the consultation had been done properly, I don’t think there would have been any objections at all.”

Cllr Trevor Thorne added: “It’s a controversial application but I do think Northumberland County Council has got it right in wanting to build a home in a small community so the children can integrate and be brought up as normally as possible.”

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