TWO young people’s residential care homes have been given the go-ahead in Carmarthenshire, despite concerns from some people living nearby.
The council’s planning committee approved change of use applications for a detached five-bedroom property in Drefach, and a detached three-bed property in Pwll, near Llanelli.
The owners of the Pwll property, Oakmont Services Group Ltd, submitted a retrospective application after planning enforcement officers visited the home.
A letter on behalf of the company said it had initially been advised that change of use consent was not required.
There were 27 objections to the proposal, including from Llanelli MP Nia Griffith. Objectors raised parking concerns and also said Dyfed-Powys Police had attended “several” incidents at the property.
The planning report before the committee said police had taken action after being called out to the Pwll Road property, but that the council had not received any noise or anti-social behaviour complaints.
The residential facility caters for no more than three young people at a time, who are supervised on a 24-hour basis.
The report said although anti-social behaviour was undesirable, “similar impacts could arise from any residential occupation of the property and are not uncommon in residential areas”.
Planning officers recommended the application for approval, adding that it would not be appropriate to assume that all children who resided there would cause problems.
The application for Drefach was for a residential property which had in the past been a cafe and a post office.
Concerns were raised by ward councillors Darren Price and Aled Vaughan-Owen that renovation work for the children’s care home had started prior to any change of use consent.
The Heol Caegwyn property will cater for seven to 18-year-olds in the care of Carmarthenshire Council, with up to five members of staff on site at any one time.
Two objectors wrote to the council expressing fears about potential anti-social behaviour and suggesting that more isolated sites would be more appropriate.
Council officers recommended the application for approval, and it was approved unanimously by the planning committee.
Cllr Jeanette Gilsabey wanted to know if there were any parking spaces allocated for visitors and delivery drivers, and was advised that there was sufficient space for them.
Committee chairman, Cllr Alun Lenny, said: “I’m sure there is a call for this type of home in the county.”
Councils deal with planning consent for young people’s residential homes, many of which are run by private operators, but Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) registers them.
The provider and also the person in charge of the running of the home must pass what is known as the “fit and proper” test. There is specific criteria in legislation about this.
The person running the home – known as the “responsible individual” – deals with governance and oversight matters. CIW need to be satisfied that he or she is eligible, fit and proper, and will comply with the relevant duties set out in law.
Sarah Cullen, head of registration and enforcement at CIW, said: “The suitability test relates to where the responsible individual sits within the governance and structure of the organisation.”
Some concerns have been expressed in South West Wales that relatively cheap property prices have led to a growth of residential homes catering for children from outside the area, which in turn can put pressure on local education and police services.
CIW does not consider any potential cumulative impact – rather, it judges each application on its own merits.
Factors include access to facilities, and what the residential home will do to ensure that the young people in its care can access them.
Providers have to submit a statement of purpose, but at that point they might not know where their future young clients will come from.
CIW doesn’t need to know this, but will know in advance the type of service being applied for, the age group of the young people, and the range of needs the provider plans to cater for.
Once a home is registered, CIW will inspect it within six months and thereafter every 18 months. This regime is returning to normal after the Covid lockdowns of spring 2020 and beyond.
If a provider is falling short, CIW considers the impact of the breach. If serious, CIW will issue the provider with a notice and give it a time scale to rectify the issues.
In such cases, CIW carries out a follow-up check to ensure compliance.
Miss Cullen said: “If they remain non-compliant, or there is an urgent issue, that will be discussed at one of CIW’s enforcement panels.”
CIW ultimately has the option of preventing any new admissions to a residential home, or even cancelling its registration.