Heysham house to become children's care home despite fear over parking and anti-social behaviour

27 Longlands Crescent, Heysham
-Credit: (Image: Google)


A Heysham house can be used by a business as a children’s residential care home despite concerns over disturbance, parking problems or anti-social behaviour.

Planning permission has been granted to Therapeutic Care Ltd, allowing change of use of 27 Longlands Crescent, Heysham, to a children’s care home for two youngsters. Priority will be given to children from the Lancaster district, under planning conditions.

Ten public objections were sent to Lancaster City Council and only one in support. There was also a petition with 84 people’s signatures against the plan. And Heysham Coun Susan Penney asked Lancaster City Council’s planning committee to look at it.

At the meeting this week, city council planning officer Mark Cassidy said: “This is an application for a dormer bungalow to be used for the care of two children aged 17 and under, managed with carers on-site and a manager on call. Up to five people would be there at any one time. Lancashire County Council is supportive of such facilities, which provide routine for youngsters and maintain a lifestyle which helps them move forward. It has a garden, good boundaries and space for cars.

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“There is an identified need for this type of care. The overall number of people at the house would not be enough to have a significant impact on noise or disturbance. The potential impact on neighbours under these plans are not considered to be sufficient to justify refusal.

“As a planning authority, we have to consider material planning issues like the change of use and number of workers there. There will also be conditions to try to make sure, first-and-foremost, it will be people from the Lancaster district who are catered for, then from Lancashire.”

Therapeutic Care Ltd sent recent comments responding to residents’ objections. It said it has 17 care homes, was rated ‘good’ by OFSTED and at least ten children in care have come through Lancashire County Council. The Heysham site was well-suited including being in a residential area.

The planning meeting heard the company had shown interest in a Morecambe house at Balmoral Road. However, it did not own the property and progression with that plan had changed.

Coun Martin Bottoms said: “The local parish council has spoken about consultation. Can you confirm that please? And about police comments on CCTV, doorways and lights.”

Mr Cassidy replied: “Yes, we did all the procedures with notifying neighbours. It’s often the case that residents’ responses generate more responses. Some people ask why they did not get a letter from the city council? But our notification is in-line with the scale and nature of the plan.

“Applicants [such as Therapeutic Care Ltd] are encouraged to communicate with residents in national [government] planning policy – but it is not a requirement. It should be proportionate to the plan.”

Mr Cassidy added: “There is no planning policy to insist on things like CCTV. The applicant is regulated by OFSTED and they have a level of security that is appropriate to the care. Some details about external lighting have been mentioned regarding neighbours’ amenity.”

Coun John Hanson said: “This isn’t a half-way house for people coming out of prison, is it?”

Mr Cassidy said the plan was for children aged 17 and under. Different types of care existed but councillors had to consider the application in front of them.

Coun Alan Greenwell said: “We all know there are troubled youngsters who need care. But I’m concerned about the private firm, Therapeutic Care Ltd. I’m interested to see they have got 17 homes. They have also got 20 staff vacancies. That’s quite a dilemma. They also say they pay high overtime rates. I went to Companies House too and there were some concerns.

“If we cannot question Therapeutic Care Ltd, who can? The county council says it knows the firm and use it. But if we can’t scrutinise the company, who can?”

Mr Cassidy said: “Whether a company can provide care is not a planning matter. That is for OFSTED and the county council to look at.”

Coun Paul Hart asked: “Can land covenants have a bearing on use? I’m sympathetic to the need for this but is a covenant being disregarded? If someone wanted to enforce a covenant, that would probably mean resorting to the law, which is expensive. That doesn’t seem right.”

Mr Cassidy said any covenant would be a civil law issue between the land owner and applicant. But a covenant would not block a planning application. Legal expenses could be significant if a solicitor was used.

Labour Coun Martin Gawith said: “I’m really disappointed with the tone of this discussion. Years ago, I wrote a report for Nottinghamshire County Council about children’s care. It highlighted how large institutions often reinforced bad behaviour and also attracted men who were a threat to young women. We needed small care homes.

“People have a fear but these kids have been badly treated by communities across the country. We need more small homes. In future, I’d like to see applications like this go through the system without going to the committee.”

But committee chairwoman Coun Sandra Thornberry said: “It’s a right for councillors to call-in applications.”

Coun Keith Budden said: “I have been contacted by residents over the years about applications like this. I’ve been in touch with the majority of homes in my ward. There have not been any problems or issues. We have controls and conditions. If there are issues, we have procedures to deal with them.

“We should support young people. The applicant is a professional company and I’m confident about it.”

In a vote, councillors approved the application.