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Change in rules for child care premises called for

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: March 22, 2014

By Leslie Jackson

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COUNCILLORS have voted unanimously for a change in planning rules after it emerged that there are 19 children's care homes in the district run by private businesses.

Planning rules presently allow private houses to be turned into children's care homes if not occupied by more than six people.

Now members of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council have voted to back a motion calling for a change in the law which would mean they require planning permission.

The properties consist of farmhouses or former private dwellings situated all across the Moorlands.

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Under the current rules, neighbours are not informed they have been converted to children's care homes.

At the last full meeting of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, councillors supported a motion put forward by councillors Peter Elkin and Ron Locker to support a review of the policy.

The motion read: "There is great concern about the emergence of children's homes in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

"These are often large private houses, purchased by entrepreneurs who then convert them into children's homes without a change of use planning consent.

"The position at the moment is that a dwelling included use for up to six persons living together as a single household where care is provided, and it is considered that there is no change of use and planning permission is not required. We call on this council to support a review of this policy."

Councillor Linda Malyon said there was one care home in her ward and it held regular meeting with residents and police.

She said: "I believe these homes are in the wrong locations. They are so alien and people hate them being there.

"Also many neighbours complain. These are no longer homes. They have fire extinguishers in every room. There are several fire doors and the rooms are locked.

"They are taking family houses into something else and should have planning permission for a change of use.

"This is big business and the money is an incentive. It is having a detrimental effect and safety to neighbours in rural locations."

Earlier this year the district council's health and community overview and scrutiny panel was attended by Scott Crawford, county manager for regulated services and corporate parenting.

Mr Crawford said: "The children placed in these homes tend to be difficult and have challenging behaviour. Many have a history of going missing and some have been victims of abuse and neglect which has led them to criminal activities. There are 19 homes in the Staffordshire Moorlands run by the independent sector. They are registered with Ofsted and have twice a year inspections."

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