Children’s home plan in ‘nice, quiet’ North Yorkshire area approved despite objections

Plans to convert a four-bedroom detached property in North Yorkshire into a small scale children’s home have been approved by councillors, despite objections.

Members of Redcar and Cleveland Council’s regulatory committee went along with a recommendation from planning officers that change of use permission be granted for the dwelling in Bransdale, off Farndale Drive, part of the Pine Hills estate in Guisborough.

It is intended to cater for three children aged between eight and 18 years old with two supervising adults on duty at any one time over a 24 hour period.

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The planned operator, GAC Family Services Limited, succeeded with a similar change of use application in June for a property in St Anne’s Road, New Marske, which again was to care for three children, described as being from “dysfunctional” backgrounds.

Bransdale in Guisborough

Approximately 74 objections to the Guisborough plans were received by the council from local residents, although there were also 18 letters sent in support.

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The raft of objections included concerns about additional traffic and whether a “quiet cul-de-sac lived in by mainly elderly people” was appropriate for such use and could create an “unstable environment”.

Another resident said: “The value of the properties will be compromised, and we certainly would not have purchased our house if it was within the proximity of such an establishment.”

There were also concerns expressed about whether children would be kept under suitable control and may cause anti-social problems.

But a resident in favour of the development said: “It would be amazing to support these individuals who obviously need help. I am appalled to say that yesterday I received a note through my door asking all residents to object, which I find highly offensive.

“They should be ashamed of themselves as I assume these children will have challenging behaviour needs and possibly special needs.”

Others said the children concerned deserved a second chance and the opportunity to be looked after in a nice area, along with stability in their lives.

The council’s children and families services directorate said the property offered the potential for a “family home” and would meet the requirements for a small residential home.

It said: “It is a desirable option for children and young people who are unable to live with their own family or in a foster home. We will meet with the developer to ensure we understand their plans around service delivery in more detail.”

A report for councillors said: “The number of objections received to the application is of course noted. However members will be aware the number of objections received is not in itself a determining factor and many of the objections raised are not material planning considerations that can be given weight in the decision on this application.

“In addition, whilst crime and the fear of crime can be a material consideration, the bar is set very high in terms of evidence and to refuse an application on those grounds will require the council on any appeal to demonstrate such events will occur.”

Planning officers had concluded that the change of use would not have an adverse impact on neighbourhood amenity and raised no issues in terms of highways amenity.

They said: “The proposal would respect the character of the site and surroundings. The proposed use as a children’s home is considered acceptable within the residential area.”

Councillor Cliff Foggo, one of the members of the regulatory committee, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the existence of an apparent covenant covering properties on the estate which stated that no trade profession or business be carried out on the land could not be considered by the committee as it was a civil, not a planning matter.

He said: “That’s up to the residents whether to take that further themselves and get solicitors involved.”

Coun Foggo said there had been a move away in recent years from children’s homes being “huge monoliths”.

He said: “That’s why operators go for these places, you end up in a normal, family environment, albeit it is not their natural mother and father, but they [the children] are looked after in a small group by people they know.

“The other thing is with these set ups the company that is running it are checked by Ofsted, they have to be licensed by the council, and social services also keep an eye on them. Their policy is also to vet all the children being placed there so they can provide the right mix and it’s a nice place to live.

“There are lots of safeguards in place to look after the situation.”