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My Tribe Homes repeats bid to Maidstone council for care home in Grace Avenue, Allington

A bid to turn a semi-detached house into a care home for young people has resurfaced only nine days after it was refused permission.

My Tribe Homes Ltd had asked Maidstone council to grant a Lawful Development Certificate for the property in Grace Avenue, Allington, to allow a change of use to a children's home with up to four children living at the premises, cared for by two adults working a shift rota.

The house with the skip in the yard is the one earmarked for a children's home
The house with the skip in the yard is the one earmarked for a children's home

The application, which had caused dismay among existing residents in the street, was rejected by the council on January 17.

The council said then: “The proposed change of use is not considered to fall within the definition of a dwellinghouse (Class C3), but rather within Class C2 and based upon the degree of use and associated activity described, would be characteristically different to a dwellinghouse, such that a material change of use would occur, for which planning permission is required.”

But just nine days later, the firm did not submit a planning application as suggested, but rather submitted a new application for a lawful development certificate.

A lawful development certificate application does not require the council to advertise the application nor to seek neighbours’ views.

Sheila Ryan was one of a considerable number of Grace Avenue residents who opposed the first application.

Sheila Ryan said: "Surely no means no?"
Sheila Ryan said: "Surely no means no?"

She said: “What part of no don’t Tribal Homes understand?

“This application is exactly the same as the first. How can they keep applying for the same thing? Surely this is a waste of council officers’ time?”

“It makes you very suspicious that something is going on in the background that residents don’t know about. Especially as Maidstone Borough Council has now removed from its website all the public’s objections and a letter from Kent Police, regarding the first application.”

KentOnline twice asked Ravi Sharma, the director and founder of My Tribe Homes, to explain how the second application differed from the first, but he declined to do so.

Instead, he said: “The neighbours deserve to hear this information first hand and we are committed to doing this directly.”

Grace Avenue is a development of semi-detached homes built in the 1920s
Grace Avenue is a development of semi-detached homes built in the 1920s

“There is no doubt that indirect communication has heightened matters and created an unnecessary tension.

“We have already started to engage on the doorstep and will be continuing these efforts to ensure that we are a part of the local community and not separate.”

Ward Cllr Stuart Jeffery (Green) said: “I haven’t yet been through the new application line by line, but at the moment I can’t see anything different.”

Cllr Jeffery confirmed Mr Sharma had asked him to organise a public meeting with residents so that My Tribe Homes could explain their plans. No date has yet been set.

Cllr Jeffery had organised a similar meeting attended by around 50 residents at the time of the first application, but at the last minute, Mr Sharma had been unable to attend because of a family emergency.

Cllr Stuart Jeffery (Green)
Cllr Stuart Jeffery (Green)

The company’s applications can be viewed here.

For the original application search for 23/505260.

For the new application search for 24/500258.

Because the new application is regarded as a separate matter from the first, any resident wishing to make a response – either for or against the proposal - will need to write in again.

In its application, My Tribe Homes said: “There are currently 83,840 looked-after children in England.

The children’s care sector is experiencing a ‘sufficiency crisis’

“The children’s care sector is experiencing what Ofsted has termed, a ‘sufficiency crisis’ and this is particularly dire in Kent and the South East.

“A House of Commons Review found that 41% of all looked-after children were placed outside of their Local Authority and far from family and kinship support networks.

“Further, it found, that the number of looked-after children living in unregulated accommodation, ie not Ofsted registered, had increased by 89% between 2010 and 2020.”

My Tribe Homes is a registered care provider and is inspected by Ofsted.

It said: “The home will provide care for a maximum of four children, staffed by a maximum of two adults at all times. The carers would not live at the dwelling on a permanent basis, and would instead be engaged in a 24-hour shift rota, whereby carers will sleep on site and change hands the following morning. The carers will do two or three shifts per week.”

Heidi Hodges was brought up in a care home
Heidi Hodges was brought up in a care home

“The use of the home and activities that take place therein are entirely as one would expect in a typical family home including: promoting secure attachments and loving relationships, cooking and eating together, playing, doing homework, relaxing and sleeping.”

The firm said Maidstone council had granted similar lawful development certificates in the past to children’s homes in Upper Fant Road, Florence Road, Charles Street and Waterlow Road.

Previously, Heidi Hodges, who was brought up in a care home after she and her brother were orphaned, had urged Grace Avenue residents to be more tolerant.

She said: “Children in care are not delinquents. Their situation is not their choice. They should not be vilified before they even move in.”

KentOnline has asked Maidstone council why the 34 public comments to the first application have been removed from the borough’s website. So far we have not received a response.

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