Concern over children’s home for Bicester

Magnolia House, Banbury Road, Bicester.
Magnolia House, Banbury Road, Bicester.
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Plans for a children’s home in a residential street in Bicester have met with opposition from people living nearby.

A group of concerned residents spoke out at Bicester Town Council’s planning committee this week over the plans concerning Magnolia House in Banbury Road.

An application to turn the five-bed bungalow into a residential institution was submitted under the name of Simon Herbert, who is commercial director of children’s services for security company G4S.

Neighbours said they had not been consulted over the proposed change, which has yet to be discussed by Cherwell District Council.

Councillor Richard Mould, chairman of Bicester Town Council’s development committee, said: “We had about eight or nine people from Taylor Close, which is directly behind Magnolia House.

“Four of them spoke and gave their concerns. It’s a very quiet residential area, and there is access from Magnolia House to Taylor Close.

“They were very concerned about traffic, concerned about their privacy, and the fact that it will border their gardens.

“Really, the problem for them is what kind of children will be going into the home.”

Cllr Mould said there were no plans to alter the footprint of the building, only internal works to create bedrooms.

Plans allow for five children and two members of staff on site.

Cllr Mould added: “They’ve just got permission for one in Aylesbury, and I think there’s two or three others around the area, including one planned for Milton Keynes.

“We were unhappy with the fact that there had been no consultation.

“We thought that, along with what residents were saying, that it was an inappropriate development.”

He said councillors also had concerns reflecting the “devious nature” of the application.

Town and district council member, Councillor Nick Mawer, said: “G4S have a lot of work to do to convince residents and myself that this is the right place for a children’s home.

“I will be doing my best to put the opposing case before the planning committee.”

Taylor Close resident Sean Robinson posted a comment via Cherwell District Council’s website, saying he would ‘object vehemently’ to the plans.

He said it would lead to more pedestrians and cars in an already-crowded street, and raised fears over the safety of residents, around half of whom are pensioners.

“Whilst we understand that these children need to be cared for, there is fear within the community of what types of behaviour we can expect from the children in care,” he added.

Another commenter, Paul Heijink, said he was concerned that applicant Simon Herbert is a director for G4S Care and Justice Services.

“The G4S name did not appear on the planning application,” he added.

In a response, Mr Herbert said: “As a responsible provider of children’s homes we always ensure we get the appropriate planning consent for our homes.

“In this particular case, any concerns the public may have regarding the home can be raised and logged with the appropriate authorities, and we have supported that process to the best of our ability.”

He said he was happy to meet with residents, adding: “It is common in the initial stages for an application for change of use to be made in an individual’s name, to avoid alerting competitors to where we may be looking to open a children’s home.

“This was not a deliberate omission and we have always been upfront with the seller and local authority.”