Young people with special needs living near the Mendip Hills will soon be able to be cared for locally after plans were approved by the district council.

Bromsgrove resident Matt Wilkinson applied for permission to convert Burwell House in Badgworth into a children’s home, providing specialist accommodation for those in need.

Sedgemoor District Council’s development committee gave its backing to the plans when it convened in Bridgwater on Tuesday morning (March 8), with the conversion likely to be completed by the end of the year.

This comes less than 12 months after Somerset County Council announced its intention to invest in up to ten new children’s homes across the county by 2026, ensuring young people get the best possible start in life.

Burwell House lies at the corner of Badgworth Lane and Quarrylands Lane in Badgworth.

Care staff will live on the premises, with two carers being on-site at any one time working on 48-hour shifts and a full-time residential manager.

Jackie Hipwell, who sits on Badgworth Parish Council, said the limited amount of parking provision on the site made it inappropriate for use as a children’s home.

She said: “We recognise the need for children’s homes in the countryside.

"We hope you have visited the site to understand its physical restrictions and especially the visibility on this stretch of road.

“The speed of traffic travelling on the straight road, the proximity of the junction and the blind bend – this site is notorious with village residents. Parked and waiting cars will create a hazard.”

Councillor Graham Godwin-Pearson – whose Axevale ward includes the site – added: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from having a child myself, it’s the importance of community – the sense of belonging that a child gets from being part of a school or a village.

“Burwell House is a lovely property, and on the face of it looks ideal – but it is cut off from villages. The roads outside are fast, dangerous and unlit – there are tractors, horseboxes and drivers going way too fast.

“The parking is a giant game of Tetris in that property. Members of staff arriving or leaving will find changeovers very difficult, especially when weather conditions are poor.

“I appreciate the county council’s need for more homes for children in care, but all things considered I would have thought there are many properties locally which are much better suited for this purpose.”

Councillor Alistair Hendry, however, said the concerns about traffic and parking were misplaced, citing his experience during an informal site visit.

He said: “I actually went out there yesterday [March 7] at 2.30pm – I sat for 15 minutes or so and there was not one vehicle of any kind that came past.

“The car park is bigger than it looks – you can easily get four cars in there, and if you really, really tried you could probably squeeze a fifth one in too.

“This particular place is in a rural environment, very quiet and doesn’t interfere with anybody. Children deserve a happy, safe and warm home.”

Councillor Bill Revans – who also sits on the county council – added: “This facility is hugely needed in Somerset.

"The number of our children that are accommodated outside of our county is eye-watering, and the cost of that is massive as well.”

After a short debate, the committee voted unanimously to approve the plans.

The county council’s cabinet agreed in June 2021 that it would be creating up to ten new children’s homes over a five-year period to combat the rising cost of residential placements for children in care.

A total of £3 million from the council’s capital programme has been committed to delivering these new homes, each of which will have no more than four children living there to ensure care can be “personalised and individually tailored”.

Speaking at the time, Councillor Frances Nicholson – cabinet member for children and families – said: “These children have had some of the biggest challenges – but they are still children, and they need to be brought up as best we can.

“We need to make sure that for each child who needs our support and help to grow up and to be a happy, healthy, contributing adult – it’s where they live, the people they’re with and the education they have.

“Putting those three together so we can provide the right help for the right child at the right time is what this is all about.”