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Children's home says its kids being 'demonised' in planning row

The new proposed children's home in Leek met with 35 objections

The team behind a planned children's home have hit out at people 'demonising' kids in care.

Up to six young people aged between seven and 17 will live at the Nab Hill House in Leek.

But the plans have been met with opposition from some local residents, with 35 of them putting objections in.

Their complaints include worries the kids at the home might be responsible for "theft, violence and litter" to fears about the impact of the home on house prices.

Others complained about the potential increase in traffic to and from the site, while some questioned what "benefit" there would be to the community if the youngsters were from outside the Staffordshire Moorlands district.

At a meeting of the planning committee, Julian Bolitho, the agent for applicants Compass Children's Homes Ltd, said:

“This is a house for children to develop. It is no different to having a large family living there. “The children have no medical needs but have suffered neglect or abuse. It is unfair to demonise children in care. It will be Ofsted regulated.”

A summary of one objection to the plans, contained in the report that went before the committee, stated:

"Concerned that the property could be occupied by six teenagers who might have behavioural issues and that this would affect living conditions within our gardens. If there are not enough staff to supervise the children, or the staff are unskilled and low paid, this could lead to a lack of control and unsociable and unpredictable behaviour in close proximity to neighbours (possibly theft, violence, and litter), and this is believed to be a problem at a similar home to the east of the town. This is a quiet residential area and some of the nearby residents are elderly and particularly vulnerable."

Staffordshire Police's Neighbourhood Team responded to the application pointing out the home would be the 39th children's home in the Moorlands.

They added:

"While the majority don't cause any concern for the police, a small number can be quite time-consuming due to associated incidents. One issue is children who on occasion, for a variety of reasons, go missing from such homes. This can be a safeguarding concern and potentially exposes them to heightened risk. This can also place a demand upon limited police resources where searches are required to be undertaken. There are extensive transport links nearby which could enable absconding children to leave the immediate area, travelling into Stoke-on-Trent or further afield, including to other counties. The track to Rudyard is very close by and there are large open spaces too to cover should an extensive search be required."

The police did not object to the plans, but recommended CCTV was put in place on the site, and that boundaries with neighbouring properties were improved to ensure there was no negative impact for people living in the area.

A report to councillors by case officer, Ben Hurst, said: “Residents would be in full-time education, educated daily, off site, at one of the applicant’s schools. The home would be registered with Ofsted for up to six young people with a dedicated manager. Two members of care staff would be on site at all times, rotating on a shift pattern with private bedroom facility available for night shifts. Additional staff would visit and attend during the day to assist with cooking, school transport, and cleaning. Up to eight cars might park on the existing driveway hard surface. The applicant has more than 20 other care homes and has a number of Outstanding and Good Ofsted ratings.”

Objecting to the proposal, near neighbour Laura Tilston, said:

“We are disappointed that there has been no consultation with us. There should have been a site meeting after dark to see there is no lighting. There should be turning rights. Large vehicles will have to reverse back down the road. CCTV should not overlook residents gardens.”

Planning committee member, Councillor Peter Wilkinson, said that the application should be refused. He said:

“This would be the 39th home in the district. Where is the cut off?"

However, Councillor Bill Cawley supported the application.

He said:

“Children who have suffered neglect or abuse are victims. They deserve a chance in life.”

Councillor Peter Jackson said:

“This is a larger property and can cope.”

The committee approved the plans.

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