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Last Updated: Friday, 27 July 2007, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Row over wounded soldiers' house
By Sally Nancarrow
BBC News, Surrey

Captain Peter Norton with wife Sue
Sue Norton would have welcomed being able to use the house
Thousands of people have signed up to support plans for a 1.7m house in Surrey to become a "home from home" for families of injured service personnel.

A charity wants the seven-bedroom house in Ashtead to be used for families of people being treated at Headley Court rehabilitation centre near Epsom.

But Mole Valley District Council has said the proposal should be turned down after "overwhelming" local opposition.

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, condemned the objections.

In a letter of support to the council he said they were "preposterous and offensive" and praised local MP Chris Grayling, who wants to see the plans go ahead.

A total of 83 residents have sent letters of objection to the council.

"I can't believe their attitude - it beggars belief," said Sue Norton, wife of Capt Peter Norton, an Army bomb disposal officer who was awarded the George Cross for bravery after losing a leg and part of an arm in Iraq.

"This sort of facility is something that should have been in place a long time ago - they have them in America and Germany, but in the British system we have to make do."

SOME RESIDENTS' OBJECTIONS
Increased traffic
Loss of privacy for neighbours
In view of local feeling house residents would not feel part of community
Harm to quiet residential area
Burglars could cruise area pretending to be visitors
House would be soft target for terrorists
Constant turnover of new people
Noise from children playing in street
Noise in garden
Emotive references to injured relatives designed to cloud issues

Capt Norton has been at Headley Court for a year and is shortly to leave to study for a Masters degree at the Defence Academy in Oxfordshire.

The couple have two sons, Tom, four, and Toby, two, and Mrs Norton has had to drive them to and from their home in Gloucester to visit their father or leave them with grandparents.

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) needs planning permission to convert the house in Grays Lane for use by up to six families.

It would be adapted to provide disabled access so men and women being treated at Headley Court could visit or stay overnight.

"You are talking about giving families a chance to be together," said Mrs Norton.

"It is so important for children to be able to build a relationship with their father.

"Toby was only seven months when Peter was injured and he didn't know him.

"Do people think that families visiting injured servicemen are going to be out partying?"

Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Surrey
Headley Court has been expanded to cope with more casualties

A new 30-bed ward has recently been added to the existing 170 beds at Headley Court to cope with the growing numbers of forces personnel injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A report to Mole Valley's development control committee, which will consider the application on Wednesday, admits it is an "emotive" issue.

A Downing Street petition supporting the application had received 19,000 signatures from all over the world by Friday morning.

Letters supporting the application received by the council say a wider view should be taken of the proposal than the "nimby" attitude of local residents.

Council officers say it is for the committee to decide the weight to be given to opposing arguments.

But they say that based purely its planning merits, the application should be refused because it would "adversely impact the quiet, peaceful nature of the existing area".


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