9:00am Wednesday 22nd January 2014
By David Trayner
ALMOST 1,000 people have called for a family to be allowed to adapt a bungalow in Thorpe Bay so an injured policeman can return home.
Special constable Reece Clarke, 21, has been waiting to return home from a special rehabilitation unit in Surrey, where he has been receiving treatment for severe brain injuries sustained in a police car crash in Basildon in 2011.
His father, Steve, applied to extend his new bungalow in Thorpe Hall Close, Thorpe Bay, so a nurse could give Reece round-the-clock care – but Southend councillors threw out the plans last month, fearing they would spoil the look of the upmarket area.
Now 983 people have signed a petition calling for Reece to be allowed home, started by a stranger who read the Echo’s story. Reece’s father, Steve Clarke, said: “There is so much support, it’s overwhelming.
“They don’t know us as a family, but they knowwhat has happened.
It means there are a lot of people out there who sympathise with us.”
The family remain hopeful of overturning the council’s decision and Southend architects APS Design Associates submitted an appeal on their behalf on Friday. A planning inspector will now rule on the plans to add a two-storey extension to the back of the bungalow, which already has a room in the roof, and extend the front.
Mr Clarke, 50, of Admirals Walk, Shoebury, said sympathetic builders have even offered to carry out the conversion for free.
The father-of-two hopes the decision will come by March and the conversion will be completed in time for the anniversary of Reece’s mother’s sudden death, on September 26.
He said: “If I get it, I will be celebrating. He keeps saying: ‘Dad, I’m never going to come home.’ If we don’t get permission by September, I’m going to bring him home to Admirals Walk and care for him myself.”
Almost 100 people signed a petition objecting to the conversion and 13 of 17 members of the development control committee voted it down over fears it would spoil the character of the close.
David Garston, Conservative councillor for Southchurch, said: “It was very emotional, but the problem we have as a committee is that we have to look at applications on planning grounds. As a planning case, I don’t think anything has changed.
“Good on the person for starting the petition, but I’m not sure what it’s going to achieve.”
Ron Woodley, Independent councillor for Thorpe Bay, said: “If he had been living there and become disabled, I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but it was bought for the conversion. It is not him coming home to his community.”
To sign the petition, visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/58534
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