Children's home approved in Walgrave despite residents' concerns

The children's home is set to be converted from a dwelling at The Paddocks, opposite The Royal Oak pub
The children's home is set to be converted from a dwelling at The Paddocks, opposite The Royal Oak pub

Plans to open a children’s home in a quiet Northamptonshire village have been approved despite residents expressing concerns over the scheme.

The application to change the use of The Paddocks, on Kettering Road in Walgrave, from a dwelling to a children’s home will see four young people aged between 10 and 18 looked after by two permanent staff on shift.

But nearly 40 residents had objected to plans, and were backed up by their ward councillor on Daventry District Council, Lesley Woolnough. They argued that the rural village was not the right setting and didn’t have the required amenities and facilities for such a home.

However, the applicants, TLC Youth Centre, argued that there were no planning grounds on which to refuse it.

Daventry District Council’s planning committee heard on Wednesday evening (January 30) that it was ‘borderline’ whether the application needed to get permission anyway, as it would have been approved if it was a foster family. It was only due to the shift workers that it had gone to committee. Officers also argued that ‘any nuisance neighbours’ could move into any property.

Officers wrote in the planning papers: “This is not expected to harm the amenity of neighbours by unacceptable noise or disturbance nor will it generate excessive or hazardous traffic movements. It is acknowledged that the village has limited amenities for future occupiers however there is little difference if the property were occupied by a large family.”

But Councillor Woolnough argued: “I have lived in this ward for 19 years and I have never seen so much disquiet over any previous planning application.

“It has become clear to me that this is not a matter of nimbyism but is a genuine concern from residents that the rural village of Walgrave, along with its complete lack of social and public transport infrastructure, is not suitable location for the intended use and will ultimately leave these vulnerable young people more isolated. This isolation is not conducive to their recovery or likely to improve their personnel outcomes which is the ultimate aim of these small care homes.”

But councillors on the planning committee decided to vote through the application by seven votes to three, as they didn’t feel the residents’ concerns were planning considerations.

Councillor Ken Ritchie said: “You will find instances of children engaging in anti-social behaviour everywhere. Are we suggesting that we should be in a position on which we judge a planning application because residents of Walgrave might in the future be affected?

And Councillor Mark Wesley added: “I understand those concerns but you can’t predict how people will behave. Yes, it’s a bit of a change for the village. But these aren’t planning matters, and for me, we have to hope that all the other agencies can control any issues that might affect the village.”

The approval means it is a second home that will open in the county for TLC Youth Care Ltd, with the first already open in Rushden.

Speaking after the meeting, director Duncan Mackenzie, said: “These are not ill children, but they haven’t had a very good start in life. I’ve worked in the field for nearly 20 years and certain young people might thrive in an urban setting, and some might do so in a rural setting. If you’ve had a chaotic start, then a calming and rural setting like this one in Walgrave would be ideal for them.

“I didn’t think the objections were valid, the lack of amenities is nothing to do with a planning application. And I think some have perhaps been misinformed. Ultimately though, we want to fit in with the community.”