VILLAGERS have told of their concern after a council bought a house to be used as a children’s home.

The Old Vicarage in Stillington has been bought for £400,000 by Stockton Borough Council to be used for five children.

An informal residents’ meeting has already been held in the village and The Northern Echo could not find one villager in favour of the plan today (Wednesday, April 30).

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The large detached house was listed for sale at £325,000 but a potential buyer has claimed she was “gazumped” by the council.

The house was bought as part of a £2m scheme to allow the council to bring 20 looked-after children, aged from eight to 18, back to the area by buying four residential properties.

The authority has already refurbished King Edwin School in Stockton and expects to save £400,000 a year by bringing children currently sent elsewhere back to Stockton.

If planning permission is approved, Scottish company Spark of Genius will run the care homes and school.

Similar proposals in Hartburn and Thorpe Thewles have met with opposition.

The council’s policy of buying homes before making the authority’s intentions public has been met with criticism by several leading councillors.

“The best place for them would be a council estate in the town,” said one 60-year-old woman in the village who did not wish to be named, who explained she had moved to the village for peace and quiet 16 years ago.

Another villager, a retired man, who also didn’t wish to be named, said he had nothing against the children but disagreed with the “secret” way the council had bought the home.

A father-of-two was worried the home is right next to the village primary school.

Once again, asking not to be named, he said: “We’ve no information on the type of young person who will be there and it’s just a whisper’s distance from the school. Our children are vulnerable too in terms of their innocence.”

Coun Ann McCoy, Stockton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “Residents will have an opportunity to comment on the change of use so that their views can be taken into consideration when Planning Committee decides whether to refuse or agree the change of use.”

A public meeting for residents to discuss the plans has been organised by Stockton Council and Spark of Genius at Stillington Community Centre, on Lowson Street, 6.30pm tomorrow, Thursday.