Controversial homes plan gets backing

By Roddy AshworthA GROUP campaigning against a proposal for two homes for people with learning disabilities in their village hope councillors will ignore their officers' advice and refuse planning permission.

By Roddy Ashworth

A GROUP campaigning against a proposal for two homes for people with learning disabilities in their village hope councillors will ignore their officers' advice and refuse planning permission.

Planning officers at Tendring District Council have recommended that an application to change the use of a care home for elderly people in Kirby-le-Soken into a low secure unit for people with learning disabilities should get the go-ahead.

But the majority of villagers said the scheme – to provide accommodation for six people with learning difficulties – was unsuitable for the area because of the proximity of nearby houses, its obtrusive appearance and the noise it would generated.

The plan has been put forward by care firm Mental Illness Learning Disability (MILD), which owns the Yew Trees Nursing Home in The Street and Ducks Halt Cottage in Walton Road.

MILD wants to change the conditions of their planning permission at Ducks Halt Cottage, which currently stipulates that only old people can be looked after there.

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In a report prepared for Tendring District Council's development control committee, officers wrote said although they had received hundreds of letters from residents against the plan, councillors should still grant permission when they meet on Wednesday.

"The Government's approach is that 'care in the community' is acceptable and that patients should be integrated into the community as much as possible so they can lead more normal lives than those who have been institutionalised in the past," their report said.

"The type of care which needs to be provided to this client group means that the 'external' impact of the use on impact is limited because residents do not generally leave the premises.

"Whilst it might have security lighting and cameras, these are discrete and not dissimilar to those to be found on dwellings and other types of buildings."

The report added the level or extent of opposition from villagers was not a ground for refusing planning permission.

But Jane Williams, spokeswoman for Kirby Against Secure Homes, said the planning committee had a duty to listen to residents.

"I appreciate the officers have recommended it for approval, but at the end of the day it is the councillors' decision," she added. "If they are appreciative of the impact it's having on the village, they will turn it down.

"The buildings themselves are very obtrusive, with CCTV, mirrored windows and a high steel fence. In all the gardens that back on to the property there is noise. God bless these people, but they do make noise.

"We want the councillors to listen to us because we know it is having an impact on the village. In this democratic society we are the people who elected them and they should listen to us."

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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