A HUNDRED Liden residents met South Swindon MP Robert Buckland to discuss development in the area and the housing of the autistic people at a public meeting.

Autism Care Ltd recently abandoned plans to build a care home in Okebourne Park when residents objected to traffic flow and premature works.

Residents and the MP stressed at the meeting that there was no hint of prejudice against autistic people from objectors.

Dick Wilkinson, vice-chairman of the Okebourne Park Action Committee, said the residents recognised the need for care homes for special needs, but that we would have liked a public meeting before the application was put in so that everybody could be clear about the plans.

“There needs to be scrutiny of the way in which applications for domestic dwellings being turned into businesses can be slipped through without there being any capacity for people to do anything about it.”

Robert Buckland, who has a child with autism, was keen to address issues of prejudice and was pleased to find none.

“I was concerned that there was a suggestion that residents were being prejudiced with people with autism,” he said. “I gave a frankly blunt presentation, but I was very pleased with the positive response I got.

“What they [the residents] are focusing on is the issue of businesses being allowed to operate from areas where there are restrictive covenants forbidding it.

“I think now is the opportunity for us to have a wider debate about how we care for an increasing number of adults who have autism. That is a challenge for all of us, and we do not want to send people away to far-flung care homes.”

Derique Montaut (Lab, Liden and Eldene) said the application would now be discussed at committee.

He said: “I wasn’t prepared to put down vulnerable groups, in the sense that they have a part to play in the wider communities and the families that we have.

“It was put to the meeting regarding the issue of whether residents were opposed in principle to a care home in the area, and the answer was a unanimous no.

“Recent legislation allows vulnerable groups to operate within communities, which is absolutely right.

“I have now called in the application because there have been concerns it would not be debated in an open and transparent environment, and it will go before the planning committee in September.

“All this might have been avoided if Autism Care came to the council in an open and transparent way and discussed the matter with them to find an appropriate site.”

Stuart Hook, of Autism Care Ltd, said: “What we did not have was any correspondence last week from council planners saying they were publishing the application. I would have been very happy to talk to residents, and we offered a meeting ourselves when we knew the plans had been published.

“The works carried out on the trees and hedges were covered by permitted planning and were not part of the application. Unfortunately we were not invited to the meeting.”