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Planning: Children in Care

Volume 474: debated on Tuesday 1 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) whether she has considered amending planning guidance to ensure that private children's homes require planning permission before operating in former private residential properties; (196860)

(2) what discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families on the regulation of private children's homes operating in residential properties;

(3) what representations she has received on private children's care homes which operate from residential properties;

(4) what representations she has received on the operation of private residential children's homes by the company Green Corns;

(5) whether she has had discussions with the Local Government Association on the regulation of private children's homes operating in residential properties.

Amendments to the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 were made in 2005 following extensive consultation. The consultation process did not draw significant concerns regarding the status of children's homes in the Use Classes Order.

Under existing planning regulations, the conversion of a residential dwelling to a children's home may require planning permission, depending on the characteristics of the proposed domestic arrangements and whether these are deemed to result in a material change of use. It is for each local planning authority to determine in the first instance, on a case-by-case basis, whether a material change of use is proposed and therefore whether planning permission is required.

Under the Use Classes Order, a children's home may fall within the C2 Residential Institutions or C3 Dwelling Houses use class. Generally speaking, the conversion of a residential dwelling into a children's home which is considered to fall within the C2 use class would require planning permission, while a conversion to a children's home falling within C3 use class would not.

The key test for whether a dwelling house used for non-family purposes should fall within the C3 Dwelling Houses use class is the concept of a single household. It would be difficult, in planning land-use terms, to differentiate between a dwelling house occupied by a group of young adults living together as a single household, from say a dwelling house used as a small children's home where the occupants live together as a single household.

The single household concept provides more certainty over the planning position of small group homes (such as children's homes) which play a major role in the Government's community care policy. This policy is aimed at enabling people who need an element of care to live as normal lives as possible in touch with the community.

The Department has received a small number of representations on this issue over the last year. One of these representations was from the hon. Member for Rochdale (Paul Rowen), and contained correspondence from a constituent and a local planning authority. This representation referred to operation of private children's homes by the company Green Corns Ltd.

The Department has not held any recent discussions with the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families nor the Local Government Association on this matter.