Children's home plans approved in face of dozens of objections from neighbours

Controversial plans to open a new children’s home in Shiney Row have been given the go-ahead despite objections from dozens of neighbours.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 12:45 pm
Updated Friday, 6th September 2019, 3:23 pm
The Boundary House in Shiney Row, Sunderland, is set to be transformed into a children’s home after plans were approved by councillors. Picture: Google Streetview

Earlier this year, a bid was launched to convert The Boundary House, off Paddock Close, into a home for children with special educational needs.

The plans, by the Witherslack Group, included setting up a ‘family-style unit’ for children and young people aged between five and 19.

This includes staff being based at the home during the day, including the home manager, alongside night staffing.

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In recent months, the plans sparked concerns from neighbours with 30 letters of objection and a 67-signature petition opposing the proposals.

Concerns, listed in a council report, included increased noise and disturbance in an area which has a “high proportion of elderly people”, fear of crime and parking issues.

On September 7, several objectors attended Sunderland Civic Centre for a meeting to decide on the application.

Planners told the meeting there are currently no facilities in Sunderland which provide residential care for primary age children.

While not exclusively for Sunderland children, they added, the new home would provide an offer that is “unavailable in the area.”

During consultation, Northumbria Police lodged no objections to the proposal with applicants stressing the children would be closely supervised by qualified staff both at school and home.

However, objectors questioned the suitability of the home for children with social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH).

Objector Keith Riley-Gledhill told councillors he had experience working with SEMH students as a teacher – with common behaviours ranging from “temper tantrums” to antisocial behaviour.

He said: “Living in housing with little surrounding land on a blind bend on a busy road is not the place for them.”

Objectors also referenced a similar Witherslack Group children’s home plan in West Rainton which was refused by Durham County Council this year.

While an appeal has been lodged, Durham Constabulary have objected noting the demand on the force around dealing with missing children reports – 29 since 2018.

Mr Riley-Gledhill, a Paddock Close resident, added the Shiney Row plans were driven by profit and would not benefit future tenants or neighbours.

However, representatives for the Witherslack Group defended their record as a provider, stating they run more than 26 children’s homes nationally with 55% rated as ‘outstanding’ and 45% rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted.

They added the new home in Shiney Row would create 17 full-time jobs with the aim of making the children part of the community.

Councillors heard the home would care for children with communication difficulties, aspergers syndrome, speech and language needs and learning difficulties.

Children would also be encouraged to take part in local facilities and youth groups in the area with staff transporting children to and from school.

Following a question from Coun Julia Potts, care bosses confirmed that children with more complex needs are typically based in homes in rural areas.

Following discussion, the plans were given the go-ahead by the council’s area Development Control Sub-Committee.

And planning officers said the proposals were acceptable and complied with planning policies.

The plans were carried with a majority vote of 9-1.