STOCKTON council’s purchase of a £650,000 house to turn it into a children’s home has been described as “clandestine” and “dangerous” by a leading councillor.
The home in the Hartburn area of Stockton is the second to be bought by the authority to house 20 of the town’s looked-after children currently being sent out of the area.
An attempt to buy another one in Wolviston failed following major protests in the village and nearly a quarter of the adult population in Thorpe Thewles wrote to the council to object to another purchase which was nonetheless successful.
Following the protests in those two villages Stockton Borough Council has adopted a new policy of buying the houses without informing the public.
However a change of use application must still be granted by the council’s planning committee. The authority has also promised a more comprehensive public consultation exercise.
James Wharton, Conservative MP for the area, has written to letter to Hartburn residents criticising the Labour-led council for what he described as “secrecy” surrounding the sale and the fact that the vendors were required to sign an agreement not to discuss the matter.
Ken Lupton, leader of the Conservative group and Hartburn councillor, said buying the property without public consultation was “clandestine and dangerous” and said he would be organising a public meeting.
The authority plans to work with specialist child protection company, Spark of Genius, to buy four homes for 20 children aged eight to 16.
Coun Ann McCoy, Stockton Council's cabinet member for children and young people, said immediate neighbours had been visited and others would be written to about the home before the planning application is decided.