Controversial plans for a new children’s home in a County Durham housing estate have been refused. 

Residents celebrated on Tuesday after Durham County Council’s planning committee voted against a recommendation to approve the application for the facility, described as a ‘crisis centre’. 

Bowburn locals told how their lives had been impacted by anti-social behaviour and disorder incidents linked to the property. 

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 was already in use 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 claimed it has been operating without permission. 

A campaign opposing the business's request to continue the children’s home operation was supported by 47 letters of objection. Five letters in support were submitted. 

The planning committee deferred a decision on the application in May after requesting crime figures from the police. Durham Constabulary said it received five reports of anti-social behaviour on the estate between 2021 and 2024, however, none related to the host property. 

Other reported incidents relating to the management and safeguarding of children at the property reduced from 54 in 2023 to 10 so far in 2024. 

Sarah Wilkinson, speaking on behalf of campaigners, said residents had been concerned by repeated police visits. “This is not a suitable location for a children’s home and this is why we plead to the committee directly to safeguard the quality of life and cohesion of the community,” she said. 

Cllr Gary Hutchinson, of Bowburn ward, questioned whether Juniper Care hoped to continue operating the facility “under the radar”. 

He said: “It’s not the children that the residents have an issue with it’s Juniper Care, and their ill-thought-out choice of location and their poor management of the site and disregard for the community.”

Yet, Mr Sowerby told the committee that every police visit was not because a crime was committed. “The concerns raised by residents are entirely anecdotal,” he said. “We’re not running an illegal service, we’re directed by the local authority to care for children.

“Safeguarding our children is our most significant priority.” 

He was supported by cllr Douglas Oliver, who praised the service Juniper Care provides and pointed to a similar facility in his council ward. 

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But when asked why he submitted the planning application after it opened, Mr Sowerby said: “It’s the correct and appropriate way to do it”. 

Cllr Angela Surtees led a vote to refuse the application. She said: “I am not convinced this is the right community for the care home to be placed in because of the concerns over the last 16 months.”

The application was refused by seven votes to three.