'They're not criminals': Chorley children's home to open on residential estate
A children’s home is set to open on a housing estate in Clayton-le-Woods after councillors were persuaded that the plan would offer a lifeline to some of the most vulnerable youngsters in society - and not harm residents living nearby.
Planning officers at Chorley Council had recommended that a bid to create the facility - in a detached property on Dallington Avenue - be refused, because of the potential impact on neighbouring households of increased “comings and goings” from staff and other professionals involved in the care of the children who would be living there.
However, after a direct plea from the operator of the proposed home - who stressed that the youngsters were not involved in crime - members of the authority’s planning committee decided to support the scheme.
Seventeen locals had objected to the proposal, with concerns including parking problems and the claimed potential for the plan to worsen existing anti-social behaviour in the area.
The home will cater for three young people aged between eight and 18 who will be cared for on a rota basis, rather than by live-in staff. Two carers will be on duty, awake, overnight.
Chorley Council's planning services manager Adele Hayes said that the proposal would “result in increased levels of disturbance - over and above those of the current use [of the property] at times when residents would normally expect to enjoy their homes in peace and quiet”.
She said that a detrimental impact was especially likely as the staffing levels at the facility would be dictated by “the needs of the individual children”.
However, Rachel Greenwood, clinical director of operator Helm Care Services - which specialises in the care and rehabilitation of children with emotional and behavioural difficulties - said that the youngsters the company seeks to help are unfairly stigmatised by a system that leaves them “without a voice”.
“The children we want to support are not dangerous individuals, they are not part of the criminal justice system, nor are they a risk to others. They are simply children without parents, for whatever reason - [and] they need love, nurture and support.
“Let us do that and we will prove to you how great our children can be and what they are able to achieve even when they are faced with such stigma, judgement and discrimination.
“I have read within the residents’ objections the concerns that they have for their own children living on the estate. What about the children that we want to care for - who will support them? Does every child not matter?” Ms. Greenwood asked.
Committee members were won round by the argument and rejected the planning officer recommendation by giving the go-ahead to the facility. Acknowledging that it was a “highly emotive subject”, Cllr Martin Boardman said he did not believe that the property, once converted, would function in a different way to any family home.
“There is some very good data...that says children do come through these difficult starts [in life] if they're mixed with the community. A part of [the applicant’s] whole ethos is to place children...within local schools and to be part of that community, so that [it] can help them grow… into young adults.
“They’re not criminals - they are just in an unfortunate situation,” Cllr Boardman added.
Cllr Alistair Morwood said that the children would be taken out to visit any additional support services - rather than there being a stream of professionals coming to the door of the home.
He said that the aim of such developments was to “create as normal a family life as possible”.
Cllr Alan Whittaker added: “[These children] are not tearaways, they’re not [in] the criminal justice system...and if they can get some good care, then perhaps we can prevent that from happening.”
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