PROPOSALS to open a new children’s home in Seaford have been given the go ahead.
On Wednesday (April 21), Lewes District Council’s planning committee approved proposals to convert a house in Beacon Drive into a residential home providing therapeutic care for five vulnerable children.
Before making a decision, the committee heard how there was a national shortage of such facilities, meaning that local children can currently be placed a long distance from their families and support networks. It would take in children between the ages of eight and 12, although the children could potentially remain until their 18th birthday.
While recommended for approval the application had seen some significant opposition from residents, many raising concerns around the potential for noise and disturbance from the children.
A number of statements from objectors were read at the meeting, including one from neighbours Penny and Roger Jones, who said: “A children’s home operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day and 365 days of the year, meaning a far more intensive use than the property that is housed by a single family.
“For those living nearby this would mean a marked deprivation in the peaceful enjoyment of their homes, with all the comings and goings at unsocial hours, coupled with the mental anguish of worrying about disturbance.
“It does not feel as though the human rights considerations have been fully taken into account, particularly as fears and concerns have been dismissed as conjecture and anecdotal.”
Similar views appeared to be shared by several committee members, with Cllr Jim Lord (Con, Seaford North) raising concerns about anti-social behaviour should the children stay on as they get older.
He said: “We all know what teenagers are like – I’ve been through it with my children as well – they want girlfriends and they want boyfriends and they want they want to stop out at night and they want to smoke and they want to do this.
“I know as well as everyone else here, that as an adult, as a parent, you have no way of enforcing it, because by association that is what teenagers do.
“When it’s your own child and on your own doorstep, you can do something about it and if it’s your next door neighbour you can say something.
“However, when it comes down to a child who is in the care of the community or the care of the social services and you go to the manager, how are these rules enforced or regulated? No matter how good the staff are, it doesn’t really happen.”
He added: “I feel like there is a need for this sort of environment for youngsters, but what we have to consider this evening, is it the right location, in the middle of a residential area?”
Committee members also raised concerns around the proposed facility’s residential location, with some councillors also taking the view that the property – a six-bedroom detached house – would be too small for the facility.
Officers disputed these concerns, however, with the size considered to be acceptable.
Andrew Hill, senior specialist planning advisor said: “It is still being used for a residential purpose; five children who are looked after and cared for in there by people, professionals, some of which stay overnight and live in the premises to look after them.
“With the best will in the world, when it is properly functioning and operational it shouldn’t in itself have any greater impact than using that property as a dwellinghouse if one of you with five children decided to buy and live in there.
“The implications of noise, using the garden and everything are likely to be the same.”
The most significant difference, officers said, would be staff and other professionals visiting the facility.
Other councillors were more supportive of the scheme. Cllr Graham Amy (Lib Dem, Newhaven South) said: “We had a similar request in Newhaven.
“We had exactly the same kind of neighbour concerns, but I have to say I haven’t had one complaint since that organisation went into that house.
“I was expecting quite a few, but I had very, very few. I think there were just a few about additional cars in what was an unmade road at the time.”
Following discussion the application was narrowly approved, five votes to four.
For further information on the proposals see application reference LW/20/0849 on the Lewes District Council website.