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HomeNewsPlans approved for children's care home in Radlett despite concerns

Plans approved for children’s care home in Radlett despite concerns

Inspectors have approved plans for a children’s care home despite fears it could become a “circus of horrors”.

Hertsmere Borough Council threw out plans for a four-bedroom care home near Radlett in a decision dated March 24, 2023.

But the government’s Planning Inspectorate has stepped in to green-light the change of use application after it heard 384 children in Hertfordshire County Council’s jurisdiction are housed outside of its borders – including 41 children housed more than 100 miles from their home addresses.

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The building set to become a children’s home – previously a private house – lies next to a sewage plant, a scrapyard and an electricity substation.

In his decision report dated 2024, inspector Ben Plenty wrote: “The property is an existing dwelling which could be accommodated by a family of three children without requiring any [adaptation].

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“The dwelling is within an open setting, adjacent to woodland and green spaces.

“At the time of my visit, I noted that the site was secure with the front gate closed.

“The property therefore provides a safe and enclosed environment for future resident children.

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“Consequently, although the site is adjacent to an industrial use and sewer treatment works, there is no clear reason put to me as to why this would place a heightened level of risk to children attending the site.

“Furthermore, the secure front boundary would prevent small children coming into direct contact with lorries and vans serving the scrapyard.”

The inspector found the planned home would comply with a local policy which dictates developers must “ensure a safe, accessible and healthy living environment” for residents.

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When Hertsmere Borough Council debated the planning application at a committee meeting last year, Councillor Christian Gray (Lab, Potters Bar Furzefield) said: “Let’s be fair, this is horrific, isn’t it?”

He made reference to the proposed home’s proximity to the sewage works, electricity plant and scrapyard.

“The clue’s in the title – a care home,” Cllr Gray said. “Care. We’re going to drown them, electrocute them, or crush them in a car crusher.

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“If there isn’t a rule to say where [care homes] should be, then there should be a rule to stop this from happening.”

Cllr Gray added: “We should not be sending vulnerable kids to this type of location to provide any level of care, to be honest.

“It’s a circus of horrors.”

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Hertsmere Borough Council’s planning committee tried to refuse the application using the Children Act 1989.

The legislation sets out that children’s welfare is “paramount” when a court makes any decision about their upbringing, property or money.

The developers lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate.

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“The scrap yard is a large operation that would be likely to attract relatively high numbers of commercial vehicles,” Mr Plenty wrote in his decision.

“Children’s rights are protected under the Children Act 1989 and 2004, a key principle of which is to protect the welfare of the child.

“[These acts] also requires local authorities to secure sufficient accommodation to meet the needs of children that the authority is looking after.”

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Hertsmere Borough Council planning staff suggested that refusing permission “would be to the detriment of vulnerable young people in care in Hertfordshire as it would deprive them of a potential care home within the county’s boundaries”.

In their statement of case, the developers wrote: “The ethos behind the appellant’s intended operations of this property would be for the residence to provide an environment as close as practically possible to normal family life in order to ensure that the children can live a life of normality in the local community.

“This approach can offer a better environment in comparison to larger institutions as they enable individual needs to be met and allow the children to integrate into their community and life as equal citizens.

“As a consequence, the structure of the household is designed to ensure that the building functions as close as possible to a standard Class C3(a) [family home] use.”

They told the inspector no internal or external alterations to the property were proposed as part of their application and appeal.

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