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Owner of Ashdene B&B in Dibden Purlieu calls objectors’ comments about autistic people over planning application to turn it into assisted living ‘absolutely disgusting’

THE owner of a B&B that could be transformed into supported living for people with autism and learning disabilities has described as “absolutely disgusting” comments made by objectors.

Ian Lee has run Ashdene B&B on Beaulieu Road in Dibden Purlieu for 17 years with his wife Cathy. The couple now want to retire but have been unable to sell their business, which is still open, as a going concern.

Company Alina Homecare Disability Support want to take it over and turn the nine-bed house into a “supported living service” with space for eight residents aged over 18 and five staff.

Ashdene B&B on Beaulieu Road in Dibden Purlieu
Ashdene B&B on Beaulieu Road in Dibden Purlieu

But Mr Lee, who has a son with learning disabilities himself, was left stunned when several nearby residents raised what he called “ludicrous” objections.

“Were it not for the fact it is so serious it would be hilarious,” he said. “As it is they are absolutely disgusting.”

Objectors raised concerns about their “wellbeing” being impacted by the change of use, with others claiming the area could see a rise in anti-social behaviour.

One neighbour said: “Bedsits and flats with residents with learning difficulties does not fit in with the wellbeing of the area.

“What is the range of disabilities of the proposed occupants? How is this governed and overseen?

“There could be occupants who have violent tendencies or such like; what safeguards are proposed to be put in place should a situation arise?”

Others questioned how those living at the home would be able to cross the road, keep themselves clean and do their laundry.

“Who will clean the kitchen and when?” said one objector. “Kitchens should be cleaned on a daily basis, especially as the intended users could be deemed as vulnerable.”

One referred to future residents as “unfortunate”, while another said: “Could you imagine a house full of problematic teenagers!”

Another said: “We believe there is a risk to our wellbeing, our ability to enjoy living in our home and spending quiet time in our garden.”

Mr Lee said he was “shocked” when he read the comments, adding: “My son has his motorbike licence, his car licence and a job. He lives by himself and can certainly cross the road without assistance!”

The comments were also slammed by Jane Atkinson, founder of Sway-based Autism charity Positive Path Foundation.

“It is like something out of the Victorian ages,” said Jane, whose son George is autistic. “I cannot believe the ignorance and bigoted views of some people around disabilities.

“To call them ‘unfortunate’ is shameful. To say that they are going to be potentially violent and unable to keep themselves and their homes clean is a complete defamation of character.”

She continued: “To say that people with disabilities do not fit in with the wellbeing of the area is just ignorant. If it wasn’t for the fact that these cruel and opinionated people made such comments, people with disabilities and their families would not feel so vulnerable and discriminated against.”

A man with ADHD posted a comment to NFDC’s planning portal saying he was “outraged” by the comments, arguing action should be taken under the Equality Act against them.

One woman in support of the application said: “Perhaps those so concerned with how the residents are going to do their cooking and cleaning could offer their assistance.”

Ian and Cathy Lee want to sell the B&B and retire
Ian and Cathy Lee want to sell the B&B and retire

NFDC planners said they were “supportive of the principle proposed use”, but turned down the application on the grounds that windows on one side of the building would not give residents “good quality living accommodation”.

However, Mr Lee said it was his understanding that Alina would come back with amended plans.

Hythe and Dibden Parish Council said such a facility would be “welcome” but argued the location was not suitable.

Mr Lee added: “The council are supportive of the idea which is good. At the moment we are continuing to operate as a B&B and are looking forward to the coming summer. But it would be nice to be able to retire soon.”

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