A Birmingham children’s home has been closed following fears that pimps were grooming vulnerable youngsters.
But now the charity that ran the Edgbaston unit is looking to open a new one in nearby Wheatsheaf Road.
The move has sparked objections from residents and police, who claim children at the axed home had been targeted by pimps.
St Christopher’s Fellowship charity ran the closed home and is now seeking planning permission for the new unit near to Hagley Road – an area with a reputation for vice.
Residents have lodged 70 objections and raised a 730-name petition against the Wheatsheaf Road plans with Birmingham City Council, which will decide on the scheme.
And West Midlands Police has confirmed the fears at the axed home in a letter of objection about the new Wheatsheaf Road unit to councillors.
The letter, from the crime reduction team, confirmed: “The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Police team had serious concerns that young people at this facility were at risk of sexual exploitation and some of the young residents were referred to the Public Protection Unit.
“Evidence was presented to the city council of these problems and the children’s home has now closed.”
Stockport MP Ann Coffey, who is campaigning for a law change to stop kids’ homes being set up in high-risk areas, has criticised the Wheatsheaf Road plans.
She recently told Parliament: “It is crucial planning guidance is re-examined, otherwise we will have a crazy situation similar to that recently brought to my attention in Birmingham where the planning committee is considering an application to open a children’s home in an area renowned for prostitution, drug dealing and serious crime – a red light area.
‘‘I find this staggering. The papers for the planning committee reveal that there has been a history of young girls in this area being groomed for prostitution, and that it even led to the closure of another children’s home on a nearby road.” Last weekend more than 60 residents gathered outside the proposed new children’s home development to protest over the plans.
Chris Vaughan, chairman of nearby Summerfield Residents Association, said: “These children are the target audience for those who want to exploit young people for financial gain. That is where many of the pavement prostitutes are recruited.
“We know Birmingham Council is uncomfortable with this latest application and they are not putting their own children there.”
Despite police campaigns, prostitution remains a problem on Hagley Road. Last year there were a staggering 221 prostitution offences within a mile radius of the proposed new home.
Some years ago in a bid to combat kerb-crawling, Wheatsheaf Road and nearby Selwyn Road were sealed at their junctions with Gillott Road.
Fellow campaigner John Castleton stressed he was not opposed to children’s homes in general, but was stunned by the latest location. He said: “Children in residential care are vulnerable and have complex needs, so why would it make sense to put them at increased risk of harm?
“The authorities set up to protect children are only willing or able to act after a child has been sexually exploited.’’
Protestors say they are being backed by Ladywood MP Shabana Mahmood, who has said she’s “incredibly concerned”.
Birmingham City Council has deferred a decision over the Wheatsheaf Road project.
And a spokesman stressed alleged grooming was not the reason for the previous unit being closed 12 months ago.
He said: “For the vast majority of looked-after children, it is far better that they grow up in a settled family environment as this