Girl, 8, called to give evidence in court after objecting to new homeless hostel

AN ANGRY mother has hit out at council officials after they summoned her eight-year-old daughter to court to give evidence in a planning dispute.

The call came after Lynn Cunningham's daughter, Shana-Michelle, wrote a letter objecting to plans to open a homeless hostel near the family home.

Aberdeen City Council is currently taking legal action after its plans for the hostel were turned down, which sparked a summons being sent to the 130 people who lodged an objection being called to court.

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As a result, Shana-Michelle, her brother Dylan, 14, and grandmother Norma, 76, have all been summoned as witnesses.

Ms Cunningham, from Aberdeen, said: "I was absolutely shocked and panic-stricken when I got this letter. I never thought my children would be summoned to court.

"My daughter is very scared and was in tears when I told her. It's clear we're being victimised over a decision that's got nothing to do with us.

"It's getting particularly nasty when the council starts bringing our children into it."

The children have been caught up in a controversial case where Aberdeen City Council has taken the unusual decision to take legal action against itself.

The cash-strapped local authority has a chronic shortage of accommodation for the homeless and wanted to transform derelict Aberdon House, in the Tillydrone area of the city, into a homeless hostel.

But the bid was rejected by the licensing committee after a long campaign by local residents who did not want the facility, prompting housing officials to take the licensing committee to court.

Shana-Michelle asked her mother if she could write a letter of objection because she was told she might not be able to play outside her granny's sheltered housing home any more if the hostel was built

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She sent her handwritten her plea to councillors, which had her age on the note.

She wrote: "Dear ladies and gentlemen, I don't want the homeless to be moved into Aberdon because I'm scared because in the summer-time I go outside to play.

"My nana will get scared and they might cause trouble and make a noise. Please don't put the homeless in Aberdon."

Ms Cunningham was horrified when citation letters, which run to about 20 pages, arrived at her home.

They state that if they choose not to attend court it will be thought they have dropped their objection.

It's also suggested in the documents that those on the losing side of the dispute could be hit with a legal bill.

The mother described the papers as "blatant scaremongering,".

Councillor Mark McDonald, depute convener of the housing committee, has defended summoning children to court,

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"As objectors these people have the right to be invited to respond to the appeal," he said.

"When they write a letter we have no indication of how old or young the individual is.

"We can't simply take people off of the list. Everybody has to be given the opportunity, it's purely a procedural matter.

"It is for individuals to decide if they want to make a representation to the appeal.

"We as a council are in a critical situation as regards homelessness. We are failing significantly to meet our statutory duties."