THE council has been accused of “pure discrimination” after rejecting plans for a home to cater for children with learning difficulties. 

Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) objected to the proposals, at Creepers Cottage in Mead Hedges, on the grounds that residents would make “disconcerting noises” and would “throw items over neighbouring fences” which would disturb neighbours.

Disabilities campaigners, the applicant and families of those with learning disabilities have criticised the council for its “shocking” decision.

Sara Goodman, a spokesperson for Andover disabilities campaign group #NeedsToo, told The Advertiser: “The fact that Test Valley made these appallingly discriminatory comments in this day and age is incredible. Nobody else, when they’re moving into a house, gets refused because they might throw something over a fence or make a noise.
“It’s a very outdated view.”

A TVBC spokesman said that the council “is supportive of facilities of this nature, and this decision should not be interpreted to mean anything different”.

Maddison Taylor applied to convert her family home, Creepers Cottage into a supported living home following many years of work as a carer at Andover and District Mencap. The property would see no alterations to its structure, just requiring a change of use from TVBC.

Concerns had been raised regarding parking and traffic at the site, but were addressed during the course of the application. Noise concerns, however, were raised by environmental health officers, leading to the plan’s refusal.

“We didn’t expect many objections at all,” said Maddison, “and I’m quite surprised that it is a noise one that led to it being rejected. 

“I couldn’t have predicted anything like that.” 

In planning documents, officers wrote: “The applicant has reiterated that control [of noise] would be exercised through careful selection of residents but there is no explanation as to how this decision is made or on what evidence is available to make such a decision.

“Whilst we accept that some residents will be unlikely to exhibit behaviour that is likely to lead to complaint, this is unlikely to be the case for all of the residents. 

“It is also true that behaviour may change and so residents accepted on whatever criteria may overtime display behaviour more likely to impact on the amenity of neighbours and lead to complaint.”

In particular, reference was made to “raised voices and banging”; “disconcerting noises”; and “items being thrown over neighbouring fences”, which Kate Hitchings, whose son Connor was intended to live in the cottage, described as “disgraceful”.

She said her son deserves the same rights as others.  

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