Earlier this year, Sunderland City Council’s planning department received an application from ROC Family Support Ltd., a children’s services provider, to take over a property in Silksworth Hall Drive.
Plans included a residential home to accommodate four young people aged eight - 18 with additional needs, with 24-hour staffing.
A total of three staff would be based at the ‘family-style’ unit, including manager, with on-site parking.
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Children and young people living in the home would also have a range of specialist needs including autism spectrum disorders and learning difficulties.
According to documents submitted with the application, the plans aimed to meet an identified need for specialist accommodation in the local area.
During council consultation however, around 30 letters of representation and a 22-signature petition were submitted about the application raising concerns.
This included residents of Silksworth Hall Drive, Silksworth Hall, Warden Law Lane and The Lawns, with concerns ranging from increased traffic using an unadopted road, to potential access issues for emergency services.
Other issues highlighted included potential disruption from children’s behaviour and heritage impacts linked to demolishing a garage in a conservation area as part of the development.
However, one late representation in support from a neighbour was also submitted, stating the proposal was a “great idea and a great area for children to live”.
The application was recommended for approval by council planning officers ahead of a meeting of the council’s Planning and Highways Committee on Monday (June 13), at City Hall.
Council officers said the proposal was acceptable and would not be dissimilar to a large family dwelling in terms of activity, adding there were no concerns over access.
Liberal Democrat councillor Heather Fagan, who represents the city’s Doxford ward, spoke on behalf of objectors.
Addressing the panel, she raised concerns about the increase in vehicle movements linked to the site, safe access for vehicles in an emergency and other safety issues linked to the access road, which “has no lighting or footpath”.
Cllr Fagan also cited concerns about the garage demolition and its impact on the significance of the nearby Silksworth Hall and conservation area..
Council officers, responding, said the traffic generation would be no different from an existing residential use and that children living in the home would be supervised.
It was also confirmed that Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, as a consultee, had raised no objections to the planning application.
In addition, councillors heard that the applicant would need to go through the building regulations process to address any potential issues with the development, which is separate to the planning process.
Applicants also confirmed that checks would be made as part of the Ofsted registration process for the new children’s home.
The council’s conservation officer also raised no objections to the demolition of a garage building.
Following discussion, the plans won unanimous support from the Planning and Highways Committee.
Under planning conditions, the development must start on site within three years.