A decision on controversial plans for a new children’s home has been deferred 

Residents have told how anti-social behaviour and disorder incidents linked with the Bowburn property are impacting the community and have led to the police being called multiple times a day. 

Applicant Lee Sowerby, of Juniper Care and Support, applied for the home to operate for up to three years and house two children aged between 8-17. 

The property has already been used as an unregulated crisis arrangement service. Mr Sowerby said his company has cared for three children since February 2023, with one child currently under their care. However, residents claim it has been operating without permission. 

Cllr Jan Blakey, of Coxhoe ward which covers Bowburn, said the area has become a hotspot for children’s homes. “The police have been at this property so many times you can’t count. On some occasions, it’s been more than once a day. This affects the people living nearby.”

The meeting heard how Joy Allen, Durham Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), had raised concerns about the demand on policing from children’s homes, including responding to children reported missing and increased crime and anti-social behaviour. 

Sarah Wilkinson, speaking on behalf of residents, said families often feel intimated by the presence of the facility. She said: “Since the opening of the unregistered children’s home the mental health and wellbeing of neighbours have suffered. Many residents feel anxious in their homes; we should not have to live like this. Not only is there a fear of crime, but crime is already being committed.”

But Mr Sowerby refuted the criticism and said the company has hired experienced staff, who have previously worked with looked-after children in County Durham schools. 

“There are very few one or two-bed homes in County Durham that can offer specialist care and support to meet the needs of our most challenging children and young people. We have an increasing need for smaller homes. Our service, if planning is granted, will help support Durham with this identified need.”

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Debating the application, Cllr Patricia Jopling said she has “serious concerns” with the proposal. “The residents have spoken very eloquently about the problems they are already having. Just to ignore all that’s been said is doing a disservice to the residents.

“I am not criticising the company doing it, but I don’t think this committee can ignore what’s going on in the area to add to the burden these residents are suffering.”

The proposal was recommended for approval by the council's planning authority. 

However, councillors agreed to defer a decision on the planning application so the committee can further review crime figures in the area.