Children's home to open in Preston cul-de-sac as neighbours warn of 'parking and crime impact'
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The four-bedroomed property, in Fulwood, will provide accommodation for three young people aged between eight and 18, after Preston City Council’s planning committee gave the go-ahead to the change.
The decision came in the teeth of widespread opposition from some of those living close to the dwelling - on Heatherway - with the proposal generating 35 objections. Concerns included the claimed impact on antisocial behaviour in the area and the “safety of neighbouring children”.
However, the focus of the objectors who addressed the committee was on the potential parking problems that it was suggested would result from the conversion, proposed by Blackpool-based Cherish Children's Care Limited.
Immediate neighbour Jill Truby said that she recognised and was “sympathetic” to the need to provide appropriate accommodation for youngsters in care. However, she warned that the unusual “kidney shape” of the cul-de-sac meant that there would be insufficient parking space for the traffic generated by the home - including by agencies involved in looking after the children - which she said would be “far more” than if the household remained in residential use.
“There is no room to safely park any additional vehicles outside the property. Any visitors to the properties…end up having to turn around using residents’ driveways - and sometimes even driving over gardens, much to the annoyance of [those living there],” Ms. Truby explained.
There are currently three off-street parking spaces at the property and Lancashire County Council highways officials concluded that the proposed staff working pattern - which would involve a maximum of three cars being present before reducing to two after shift changeover - would not have a severe impact on the road.
However, another local, Charlotte Holden, said that the effect on school capacity - in an area where both primary and secondary schools were already “oversubscribed” - should also be taken into account.
She said that the impact on pupil places of a three-childcare home was “not the same as the property being purchased by a family” - because of the repeat demands that would be placed on the system each time new children moved in.
Cherish Children's Care chair Peter Watson told the committee that the homes run by the firm traditionally had a “low churn” of residents - and were all rated as “good” by regulators.
He explained that the firm utilised a “parenting model" to gradually help children with trust issues “get back on track” and he asked members: “Doesn't every child deserve the opportunity to live in neighbourhood and not be prejudged by people or society itself?"
Mr. Watson added: “We design our homes to achieve as close to a normal family home environment as is possible, given the unfortunate circumstances of our resident children.
“In an ideal world, children would be brought up in a stable home with loving parents, enjoying access to good education and getting a good start in life. Our children have not had this privilege."
Committee member - and city council planning and regulation cabinet member - David Borrow said it was vital that neighbours “know how to get hold of [a senior leader]…if something goes wrong [at the home], as it occasionally does”.
Mr. Watson said that there the home manager would provide that point of contact and would also be responsible for building “a relationship” with locals and addressing any of the understandable concerns they may have.
He said that the approach had had success in a similar-sized home run by the firm in South Ribble, where neighbours now bring the resident children Christmas presents.
The meeting heard that the company has a contract with Lancashire County Council and that all of the children to be housed in the Heatherway property would be from the county area.
Committee member Jennifer Mein said that she felt “reassured” after the hearing from Mr. Watson - and she and her councillor colleagues unanimously approved the application.
A report by town hall planning officers noted that concerns raised about crime and antisocial behaviour had not been ”based on any material evidence” - and so could not be taken into account.
The children at the new facility will be looked after by five full-time employees working shifts and will be supervised around the clock. Two members of staff are to be present overnight, with one using the staff sleeping facilities whilst the other remains awake.