Council u-turn on controversial plans for children's homes in Blackpool
Planners have been forced to make a u-turn on proposals for two new children’s homes in Blackpool after fresh legal advice said the schemes contravened their policy.
The council’s planning committee had approved ‘in principle’ applications for properties at 124 Norbreck Road, and 77 Lancaster Road, to be converted for residential care for up to two children aged between 11 and 17.
But since the decisions were made last September, further investigations found both proposals breached rules which say new children’s homes cannot open if there is already a similar facility operating within 400 metres.
A meeting of the planning committee held on Tuesday refused both applications after they came back before councillors.
Residents opposed to the application for 124 Norbreck Road, had argued the scheme should be thrown out because a semi-independent supported living facility for older teenagers already operated at 66 Norbreck Road.
Council planners said this was a different use because it catered for children close to leaving the care system.
However new legal advice maintains both uses fall under the same planning category.
Both applications were refused because there is already a children’s home within 400 metres. The policy, which was agreed at the same meeting, has been introduced to prevent over- concentration of children’s residential care homes in one area.
Coun Andrew Stansfield had argued the original decisions should stand because they were made in line with the guidance at the time.
He said: “Because of something that has been misread or misunderstood, the goal posts have changed dramatically.
“Regardless of what has gone on, I think we should stand by our decision.”
But Coun Jo Farrell warned while it was a difficult decision, “if we go against the policy we will set a precedent.”
Committee chairman Coun David Owen added: “If we turn our backs on the policy at the earliest opportunity, we are in danger of having very red faces.
“An applicant in the future is likely to use this decision against us.”
Peter Kerrone, representing residents who opposed the application for 124 Norbreck Road, said after the meeting: “We are very pleased and relieved that the council has accepted that our interpretation of the similarities of these homes was correct, and the subsequent legal advice taken by the council endorsed our opinion.
“Hopefully, the town can now look forward to better regulation of these homes, and going forward the council’s awareness of these operations will result in more consideration to local residents than hitherto has been the case.”
A retrospective application for the continued use of a property at 7 Holmefield Road as residential care for up to four children, was deferred to a future planning meeting.
* Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 for your first month. Try us today by clicking here