Anger at ‘legal loophole’ over plans for new children’s home

VILLAGERS are angry at plans to create a children’s home in the middle of their rural idyll. Residents of Heads Nook, near Brampton, are up in arms about the “legal loophole” that means the home doesn’t need planning permission.

About 120 locals packed the village hall last week to voice their concerns to those behind the plans – North Lakes Children’s Services Ltd, who run Kirby Moor School in Brampton.

The school, which caters for boys with social, emotional, behavioural and learning difficulties, purchased Woodend House last week and has already begun work to transform it into a residential home for five pupils.

As long as that number does not rise to more than six, the school don’t need to apply for planning permission to change the use of the property. One villager, who did not wish to be named, said: “We don’t need to be informed or told about this and there’s no chance of us having a voice or lodging an appeal.

“Our biggest complaint is that there is a fault in the law.

“There’s obviously opposition to it. The general feeling at the meeting was that we all totally understand the reasons for providing homes like this for children, and no-one is really objecting to that.

“It’s just the location and it being in a prime residential area.”

The village, which residents describe as a “privileged area”, only has two bus services running through it a week and has no shops, post office or pub.

The resident added: “That’s why you buy into a village like this. If you want to live in the country and you want to be in a rural location, you don’t expect to live next door to a children’s home.

“It’s not a case of not wanting them at our back door, but surely we should have the right to have a voice and lodge our objections.”

Concerns have also been raised that the home may have an adverse effect on house prices in the village, with potential buyers feeling less inclined to move to the area.

North Lakes Children’s Services Ltd provides 52-week residential care at Kirby Moor School for its pupils, whose places are funded by their local education authorities.

Anthony Middleton, director of North Lakes Children’s Services, said: “We have chosen Woodend for our care home as it is a beautiful, tranquil and safe environment for our young people to develop and call ‘home’.

“Supervision is carried out with higher staffing ratios than Government recommendations in order to continue the high level of care that we provide.

“The young people are selected as part of the progression towards their individual care targets – normality and a homelike environment being identified as key factors towards achieving this,” said Mr Middleton.

“We have identified the type of young people we intend to move into Woodend. They need more emotional support and will benefit from a homelike environment. The location was also selected due to its short distance to Kirby Moor and gives a separation from the education setting, further enhancing the homelike environment.”

The school is believed to have bought the house from a London-based businessman who previously used it as a holiday home. In the past owned by former Carlisle United owner Michael Knighton.

Planning permission is required for all developments that change the use or alter the exterior of a building.

However, some “permitted developments” are allowed to proceed without permission as long as what the building is used for doesn’t change.

Under planning law, Woodend House will still be classed as a dwelling as long as no more than six residents make up the household.

A spokesman for Carlisle City Council said: “Therefore on the basis of the information we have been provided with it would appear the school does not need to apply for change of use.

“However, we have written to them requesting they clarify several points prior to us considering the matter further.”