A specialist residential unit for people with autism in Widnes has been given the go ahead by planning chiefs.

Occupational therapy, speech and creative therapies, as well as support to move back into community living, will all be on offer at the new facility.

The council’s development management committee met at Runcorn Town Hall on Monday evening where they unanimously backed the 20 bed, three storey unit on the former Greenoaks Farm Industrial Estate on Warrington Road.

The plans also include two, four bedroom ‘step down’ houses – which are designed to help bridge the gap between living in a highly supported environment and living in the wider community.

Speaking in support of the project, Stuart Challinor of Sandstone Specialist Care Group, said the service would be focussed on people with complex needs, including those transitioning from children’s services to adult services.

He said partnerships with local learning disability health professionals would allow them to deliver services such as psychology, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, as well as creative therapies such as music, aromatherapy and art therapies.

He said: “The focus will be on clients with high dependency, the majority of whom mainstream care does not adequately provide for.

“Over the last 20 years, I’ve worked with people who were difficult to work with, not because they were challenging to people but challenging to themselves and their environment, but when we’ve worked with them and met their autisms-specific needs, through highly trained staff and expertise, when you meet that need – it goes.”

Local ward councillors had previously raised concerns around parking and traffic near the site.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Dave Thompson said: “I did note the comments of local councillors in the report.

“I’m looking at the plans and you can’t tell me that in terms of that development you couldn’t have squeezed an extra three (parking) spaces out of that.

“I don't disagree with what the speaker’s saying, but at the end of the day we live in a world where – if there are issues around parking – it’s on a bend on Warrington Road, and if we end up with someone parking on the frontage there and an accident results, it’s people like (Halton View ward councillor) Cllr Polhill who’ll get it in the ear about things like this.”