Concerns raised over plans to convert school building into foster home

20th June, 2022 12:33 pm

Plans to convert a secondary school caretaker’s building into a foster home have come under fire over “safeguarding concerns”.

Essex County Council (ECC) has lodged a bid to convert the Woodlands School caretaker’s house in Takely End, Basildon, into a foster home for under 18s.

The council is in the process of purchasing the property ­– currently under lease to Woodlands School.

The two-storey, three-bedroom house, located on school grounds, will be used to accommodate one carer and one or two children who are entering care, before a more two-storey permanent placement can be identified.

Basildon councillor Kerry Smith has lodged a formal objection to the plans, which have been recommended for approval by council officers.

“Some of the kids could be as young as 12 and it seems a bit crazy to have a foster home on the site of a school,” he said.

“There are a raft of safeguarding concerns having it on the grounds of a secondary school.

“It’s just asking for trouble.

“There is a load of different locations across the borough that would be way more suitable and safer for these vulnerable children.”

Mr Smith has accused the council of rushing to choose the site in a bid to save money.

“It seems to me like a way of saving money, as the caretaker’s home will be cheap to convert,” he said.

ECC planning documents reveal the location has been identified as it will “not require substantial building work” as all that is requires is “internal decoration”.

“The conversion of an existing house, rather than a new build, makes better use of resources,” the documents state.

Mr Smith raised further fears the home’s proximity to Basildon station, which provides services to London Fenchurch Street and Shoeburyness, would pose a risk of children getting involved in county lines gangs.

He said: “It’s only a two-minute walk to Basildon train station from there and a kid could easily get drawn into county lines gangs or gangs in London from there.”

The plans will be considered by Essex County Council’s development committee next month.

The site was previously subject to a 2019 bid Woodlands School to convert the building into a wellbeing centre for pupils and staff.

Planning permission was granted but the school ditched the plans.

Source: Yahoo UK and Ireland

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