GALLERY: Community rallies behind Whittlesey couple’s bid to save home childminding business
PUBLISHED: 14:52 08 January 2014 | UPDATED: 14:52 08 January 2014
A childminding business threatened with closure has won the backing of nearly 1,000 people determined they should remain where they are.
Andy and Wendy Whitwell have run a childminding business looking after 18 youngsters at their Glenfields home in Whittlesey since 2002.
But, in October last year, they were refused retrospective planning permission by Fenland District Council after complaints from three objectors about noise and parking.
Determined to save their business, which was rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted in January 2011, the couple re-applied for planning permission, this time armed with a petition with 995 signatures supporting their bid.
They claim to have received the backing of 57 of the 64 houses on Glenfields, with some neighbours going as far as to offer the use of their driveways for people collecting children from the Whitwells home.
MP Steve Barclay is among the 93 people who have written letters of support for the application, which is also backed by Whittlesey Town Council and Park Lane Primary School head teacher Margaret Leverett.
Mr Barclay said: “It is a shame that Mr and Mrs Whitwell have been facing the prospect of closing their doors after residents wrote to the council complaining of noise levels.
“They have over a decade of experience caring for local children and provide a valued service to their parents.
“Their services are rated as outstanding by Ofsted and the prospect of them having to close their doors will not only be hugely upsetting for them, but also for the local families and the local children who rely on them and appreciate the work they do.”
Three objectors raised their concerns with Fenland District Council claiming the business generated “constant screaming and general noise” and high levels of “inconvenience” to other residents.
They said they couldn’t relax in their gardens and spoke of congestion caused by parents dropping off and picking up their children.
Their views were supported by planning officers who said the semi detached house in Glenfields, Whittlesey, could no longer be considered residential.
“In this dense residential area it is considered that such a use would be out of keeping with the surroundings,” concluded a council official who visited the house.
There is insufficient parking for staff and parents visiting the house and the overall result was “major congestion is this tight cul-de-sac location” the officer said.
But the Whitwells said they have issued parking restriction letters, introduced staggered collection times and arranged for children to be picked up from elsewhere to minimise parking disruption.
They have also compiled photographs which they say show examples of anti-social parking from some of the objectors who have flagged up parking concerns.
Among the pictures are examples of objectors parking on the road instead of their own driveways and parking at the end of the Whitwells driveway so they are blocked in.
Mrs Whitwell insisted she had been “very considerate to the neighbours” making sure children only go into the garden after 10am,
She said: “Most of our neighbours in the close proximity are not there during the day which is why I can not understand the complaints about children singing and playing games in the garden for a couple of hours between meals, weather permitting.”
Closing the business would have an adverse effect on the children in their care, Mrs Whitwell said.
She said: “Many of the children have been with us since birth and their whole lives would be turned upside down if we couldn’t continue to provide the continuity of care for them and their families.”
The application could be decided by the planning committee as early as next month.