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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 August 2007, 21:11 GMT 22:11 UK
Service families' home approved
Captain Peter Norton with wife Sue
Sue Norton said she was amazed by the unanimous decision
Plans to turn a 1.7m house in Surrey into a "home from home" for families of injured service personnel have been approved despite residents' objections.

A charity will now convert the house in Ashtead so it can be used by relatives of people being treated at Headley Court rehabilitation centre near Epsom.

The proposals were agreed during a Mole Valley District Council meeting.

A total of 86 residents had sent letters of objection saying it would have a detrimental effect on the area.

But the planning sub-committee voted 17-0 in favour of the planning permission on Wednesday night.

'Absolutely wonderful'

More than 43,000 people from all over the world signed a Downing Street petition supporting the proposals.

The seven-bedroom house in Grays Lane will now be adapted by the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) to provide disabled access so men and women being treated at Headley Court can visit or stay overnight.

In a report to councillors, officers had said the application should be refused purely on its planning merits, because it would "adversely impact the quiet, peaceful nature of the existing area".

Sue Norton, wife of Capt Peter Norton who was awarded the George Cross for bravery after losing a leg and part of an arm in Iraq, said she was amazed by the decision.

"I wasn't sure how it was going to go because as each councillor spoke it was like 'Perhaps, perhaps not'... but when they put their hands up at the end it was absolutely wonderful. A good decision."

'Much support'

Mrs Norton also praised the people who had signed the petition supporting the application.

She said: "Forty-three thousand people have signed the petition to 10 Downing Street. It's wonderful to see so much support and it makes you feel that you are not alone and you are trying to do something right."

A councillor at the meeting said the row had exposed wounds within the community and those wounds would now need to be healed.

Shadow Secretary of State for Defence Dr Liam Fox previously 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 pushed for plans to be approved.


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