Poets area children’s home plans resubmitted

4 Milton Road, Bedford
4 Milton Road. Image:Google Streetview copyright 2023, image captured September 2020

“Even with the best will” a property in Bedford’s Poets area is not suitable for conversion to a children’s home, an objector has said.

Plans to convert 4 Milton Road from a house in multiple occupancy (HMO) to a children’s home for up to five teenagers and children have been resubmitted to Bedford Borough Council.

Plans for a change of use to a children’s home were also submitted in February this year (23/00344/COU), but were refused in April.

Reasons for the refusal included that the applicants did not demonstrate that the proposed care home is “appropriate” to meet the needs of the children, staff and visitors and that the proposed use could “detrimentally affect” the amenity at present enjoyed by occupants of adjacent dwellings.

Both the objections to this new application (up to June 5), mention a drug problem in the area.

The application does state that due to the building’s location “generally” children with specific backgrounds would not be considered.

This includes that “due to local social issues” children who are prolific drug users or involved in county lines/gang affiliation may not be considered.

One objector said: “The house is close to the railway station and is a well-known ‘County Lines’ area and therefore even with the best will the house is not suitable for children in care especially as there is regular drug dealing extremely close by and in the surrounding area to this property.

While the second said: “The area has unfortunately become associated with County Lines activity, dealing has been reported just metres from the property in question.

“As the young people who will be housed here are coming from complex or emotionally stressful ‘family’ environments they may be more vulnerable than those who are residing in a parental family environment.

“It is therefore essential that their exposure to this lifestyle is avoided wherever possible.”

Bedfordshire Supported Housing director, Dean Pinnock, (the applicant) said: “We do appreciate and acknowledge the comments put forward by local people.

“However the overriding principle of a children’s home is that it replicates, as far as possible, a normal family home.

“There are many normal family homes with children in this area and it would be unreasonable to say they should not live there due to the issues put forward.

“I would also like to reassure local people that we have been in the borough for over ten years and have lots of experience in operating care services.

“We take our responsibilities very seriously, this includes our responsibility to be good neighbours and contribute towards the local community the best way we can,” he said.

A Bedfordshire Police spokesperson said its Bedford Community team has carried out a lot of work in the Poets and Harpur areas of Bedford in relation to drugs.

This includes carrying out three warrants and obtaining closure orders on two different properties over the last couple of months.

More information on the new application can be found on the council’s planning portal, reference 23/01085/COU.

The overall consultation expiry date is Tuesday, June 20, 2023.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter