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Home for autistic approved

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A home for adults with special educational needs looks set to open in a village near Newark.

Newark and Sherwood District Council planning committee on Tuesday agreed to change the use of Elston House, Top Street, Elston, from residential to residential institution. The plans include alterations and additions.

Six councillors voted in favour of approving the application and six were against it.

The committee chairman, Mr Keith Sheppard, who had the deciding vote, voted in favour.

One of the conditions attached to the permission restricts the use of the building to a residential education and care home for no more than eight post-19 residents with autistic spectrum disorders, unless consent is granted through a separate planning permission.

There were 40 letters of objection from Elston residents as well as one from a Cambridge resident and one from a resident who lives near a property occupied by students from Broughton House College, Brant Broughton.

Concerns included fears the Elston House occupants could be dangerous and threatening to the community, road safety, parking, inadequate pedestrian access, loss of neighbours’ privacy, it was an unsuitable facility in a residential area, and that the use of the building could change in the future.

More than 15 Elston residents attended the planning meeting.

The district councillor for the area, Mr Ivor Walker, spoke against the application before Elston parish councillor Sue Dyer, who has lived in the village for more than 30 years and worked at Balderton psychiatric hospital for six years, addressed the meeting.

She said the facility was for people with extreme cases of autism whose behaviour was too difficult or dangerous for them to live with their own families.

She said they could be big men, who could be very violent and unpredictable.

She said children walked to school, cycled in the village and played on the village green, but people would be frightened to let their children out on their own.

Sue Dyer said volunteers might withdraw from working in the village shop because of fear, which could lead to the shop’s closure and Elston could become a ghost village.

The applicant, Cambian Education, gave assurances that Elston House would not be a psychiatric hospital and there would be no expansion planned beyond the current eight bedrooms.

It also referred to the success of its other schemes nationwide.

A member of the planning committee, Mr Allen Tift, said he sympathised with residents but said he thought it was an ideal place for people with autistic spectrum disorders to be because it was calm and peaceful.

Mr Roger Blaney said he could not see any planning grounds for turning down the application.

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