Plans approved for children’s care home in Pandy despite local opposition
Plans to turn a house in Wrexham into a children’s care home have been approved despite opposition from neighbours.
An application by the Omega Care Group to change the use of a property on Oaklea Close in Pandy was debated by Wrexham Council’s planning committee on Monday (December 4).
The proposals show the home would be occupied by two children, supported by a total of six carers working shifts, along with a manager.
Speaking at the planning meeting, a representative for the applicants said the home would be used to accommodate vulnerable local children, with the aim of reducing placement costs for the council.
A total of 28 objections were raised by neighbours ahead of the meeting, covering issues such as increased traffic, parking problems and a potential rise in anti-social behaviour.
Ms Benyon, who lives next door to the house, spoke on behalf of the objectors at the meeting.
She said: “I’ve been elected by the objectors to speak on their behalf however, I am the only immediate neighbour of the proposal, and as such likely to be most affected by this proposal.
“My lounge window faces directly onto the driveway of this property and my home life will be impacted upon by every visitor to the neighbouring property.
“Although this could be the case for any new families moving in, this is not a family, it is a business.
“Whilst the information suggests there will be no increased noise and traffic, I am unsure how this can be possible.”
Ms Benyon said at least five cars would arrive at the home each day, causing noise from car doors being closed.
She said there could also be parking issues on the road outside due to the property having only two allocated parking spaces.
Ms Benyon also raised the risk of children absconding from the home, leading to police and other emergency services having to attend.
She continued: “This proposal is not like any other family home there is a requirement for care plans, risk assessments, fire safety regulations to name but a few, all of which differentiate this from a family home.
“This indicates that a children’s home is materially different in the day-to-day operation to a typical family home.
“It is established that children in these homes are frequently those who have the most significant and complex needs.
“The change of use that would occur is sufficiently substantial in character and the impact to be material in planning terms and all the visitors previously mentioned.”
A representative for the applicants said the aim of the proposals was to “make a difference to children’s lives” and offer a “quality provision”.
They told the meeting the home would be used to provide a safe place to live for vulnerable children and reduce care costs for the local authority.
They said: “We’re looking to support Wrexham social services in bringing children back into the local area so that we can bring the cost of provision down.
“The prices for placing a child outside the borough can be astronomical.
“My offer still remains open to neighbours, and I will happily come down and meet with them all to speak to them and try to alleviate some of their concerns.”
Clwyd South MP Simon Baynes and local councillor Pete Howell also voiced concerns.
Cllr Howell raised the “proximity of the A483 and Wrexham to Chester railway line as a potential red flag for children with suicidal tendencies” as a possible issue.
His comments were criticised after they were compared to infamous remarks made by former councillor Barrie Warburton regarding plans for a low secure mental health facility in Gwersyllt.
The proposals were refused at a meeting in March 2018, during which the then Gwersyllt North councillor referred to the proximity of the site to a railway line.
The comparison between the two sets of comments was brought up at yesterday’s meeting by Cllr Frank Hemmings.
He said: “I think that in the current situation we should welcome this sort of development to provide facilities for two children.
“It’s really important to put them into a normal residential environment where they can be children.
“I have a concern over the comments here regarding children with suicidal tendencies and I think that certainly shouldn’t be coming from a councillor in this council.
“We had that a few years ago with a previous councillor and that didn’t go down very well but I’m really happy to support this recommendation if it keeps Wrexham children within Wrexham.”
He was supported by Cllr Jeremy Kent, who highlighted the cost of children being looked after outside of Wrexham.
He said: “As vice-chair of the safeguarding, communities and wellbeing committee, we often talk about bringing care closer to home and the costs incurred by the council in sending young people out of county.
“We’re in that position where we can’t start to pick and choose how we would like that care to come closer to home.
“It would be up to the statutory authorities to make sure that it’s regulated and ran in accordance with their policies.
“To echo Councillor Hemmings, having young people in a property that feels like a home as opposed to a children’s home is the direction of travel we should be taking as well.”
Cllr Stella Matthews said the focus of any plans should be on ensuring children are placed in an appropriate setting, rather than saving money.
She also raised concerns about the comments made by Cllr Howell and expressed her overall support for the proposals.
Cllr Graham Rogers questioned whether local children would be housed at the property or those from further afield but was told it was not a planning matter.
Cllr Bryan Apsley described some of the comments made in relation to the plans as “irrelevant” and “quite disturbing”. He said he would be abstaining from the vote as a result.
The proposals were approved with eleven votes in favour and two abstentions.
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