Committee overrides massive village opposition to give permission to mother and baby unit

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Newborn baby

Councillors have overridden huge opposition in Sharnbrook to give the green light to a service for troubled new mums and their newborns.

The planning committee was told that the occupiers of a converted house would generally be young mothers sent for observation after experiencing hardships such as domestic violence, postpartum depression or possibly under a court order.

Councillors were told that there is such a lack of provision in Bedford borough that mums and their children are often taken to London or Birmingham.

The plan received a tidal wave of opposition from Sharnbrook Parish Council and neighbours in Templars Croft who were worried about increased traffic, noise and that it would bring people with drug, alcohol and domestic violence issues into the area.

Councillors met on Monday (July 19) where they gave unanimous support to the property being converted into a residential family assessment centre for up to a total of 12 parents, mainly mums, and their under-fives.

They were told that if the mums and their children needed to go anywhere, such as a GP surgery, they would be driven by staff.

Cllr Sue Oliver (Lab, Kempston North) said: “One of the best ways of saving money is to provide services in-house if we can and this is an example.

“This seems to be a way of really trying to get in there with early help and prevention.

“It would be an ideal location to be able to give them that chance to be able to look after the children properly.”

Cllr Wendy Rider (Lib Dem, Brickhill) said she fully supported it “without any doubt whatsoever.”

Cllr Alison Foster (Cons, Harrold) agreed and committee chairman Jon Abbott (Lib Dem, Oakley) said it was in a “good location, away from distractions and stresses”.

Planning officials said that on balance the factors in favour of the change of use are “considered to override the lack of community support.”

There were no speakers against the plan at the meeting either from the parish council, residents or among the committee members.

The chairman recorded an eight to nil vote in favour of the conversion, with no abstentions.

Registered by Ofsted, it will be given temporary permission for two years so the council can monitor the level of need and ensure that the proposed use operates in the manner as set out by the applicant.

by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter

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