Residents’ fears of attacks after children’s home thumbs-up
Richard Evans, Local Democracy Reporter
Colwyn Bay residents say they fear they could be attacked or see their property damaged, following a children’s home being granted permission.
Yesterday, September 16, applicant Mr Alekos Aresti was granted permission to open the children’s home at Netherton Cottage on Walshaw Avenue.
Mr Aresti, who runs the Omega Life care company, says the private care home will house vulnerable children who are looked after by the care system but says he is disappointed by the residents’ attitude.
Residents living on the street fear the home, which could house children with ‘challenging behaviour’, could bring down the area.
Netherton Cottage was a former boarding house belonging to Rydal Penrhos and also housed staff working at the school.
In letters sent to the council, some residents felt the building no longer had permission to operate as a C2 residence, which permits both boarding homes and children’s care homes.
But yesterday, Conwy granted Mr Aresti permission by issuing a certificate of lawfulness.
Writing to the council before permission was granted, Mr J Smith, who has lived on Walshaw Avenue with his wife for 34 years, said he feared for residents’ safety.
“If passed, will the council assure that all residents and the community will be safe or compensated if any persons are injured or attacked or if a property is damaged or destroyed due to Conwy planning department granting this application?” he wrote.
Rev Christine R Owen has lived at the Vicarage for 10 years and didn’t want the children’s home on the road.
“Netherton Cottage has always been a family residence,” she wrote.
“Indeed, a baby was born into the family there before the property was vacated and sold. I knew people who lived there and had dealings with them over the years. I very much hope Netherton Cottage will remain a family residence.”
Elizabeth Hunt lives next door to Netherton Cottage together with Jack Hunt.
“We live next door to the property and are extremely concerned that the council will allow such a development in a quiet residential area,” she informed the council.
“We have been at our property 20 years, and in that time, we have known Netherton Cottage as a quiet residential property that was occupied by staff of Rydal School as their personal residence.”
Another resident contacted the local democracy reporting service but wished to remain anonymous.
“I am a resident in the Oak Drive area, and I do feel deeply concerned regarding the proposed changing demographic of the area,” she said.
“It seems that many of the larger properties being sold off by Rydal are being converted to secure and semi-secure accommodations for young people.
“Residents of this area are predominantly older people and families. There are two schools (nearby), including Rydal.
“I feel deeply concerned about security issues as our area is subjected to these changes. If I were a parent of children going to school here, I may well rethink this arrangement and look elsewhere.
“As an older resident – I am 71 and my husband is 76 – we feel extremely threatened by these proposals.”
Disappointed at ‘pushback’
Mr Aresti said the home would help disadvantaged children to heal after trauma suffered early on in life.
“I’m disappointed with pushback from the neighbours,” he said.
“We work with some of the most vulnerable kids in society who don’t have any families, and we want to give them a home, and we want to make it a nice home.
“Where we’ve put the home is a nice area and a nice house, and our kids deserve that. They deserve somewhere where they feel safe.
“With regards to the cottage being next to a school and it impacting on the [school] kids, surely it could have a positive impact on our kids, being around such well-brought-up children.
“There is going to be a maximum of four children there, and we are going to provide a nice home in a nice area and give them a chance in life.
“Their lives have been full of adverse child experiences. Kids can heal from that, but it takes them feeling secure.
“It just takes a bit of stability and the people to give them the time that they deserve, and that’s what we provide in our homes.
“I was in care from the age of 12 to 18. I’ve worked in care for 20 years and built the company up over the past seven years to provide a stable base for our kids.”
A spokesman for Rydal Penrhos said the school sold the property in February 2021.
A notice on Conwy County Council’s website explains that the application did not need to be dealt with by the council’s planning committee.
“The local planning authority considers that the use of Netherton Cottage as part of a residential school commenced 10 years before the date of the application and that Netherton Cottage, therefore, has a lawful use within the C2 class.
“The use of Netherton Cottage as a children’s home for people in need of care (other than within the C3 use class) also falls within the C2 use class. By virtue of Section 55 (2)(f) of the Town and Planning Act 1990, the use of the building as a C2 use does not constitute development.”
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