Emma’s physio room go-ahead

THE parents of a four-year-old with cystic fibrosis say they are delighted that councillors went against officers and backed their plans to build a physio room inside their home.

Hartlepool couple Andrew and Ellen Gardner say the decision will transform their lives and allow their daughter Emma to enjoy the benefits of physiotherapy treatment all year-round.

The youngster will soon be able to take advantage of medicine balls, tilting tables and other specialist equipment all designed to help clear mucus which can damage her lungs.

Andrew, 44, a funeral director, said: “This is going to make a huge difference to our lives.”

The couple, who have another daughter Laura, 11, first applied to Hartlepool Borough Council’s planning department last October to extend their semi-detached home in Fernwood Avenue to accommodate the specialist room.

Planners had concerns that the extension would have a negative impact on their neighbours and asked them to redraw the plans several times.

They finally came before the council’s planning committee and despite an officer recommendation to refuse it, councillors voted in favour of it.

The two-storey extension will be built on the side of the house and it will provide space to install a set of stairs into the loft, which will accommodate a physio room, toilet and shower facilities. The extension will also extend a bathroom and provide more storage space.

Andrew and Ellen, 40, a full-time carer, both attended the meeting in a bid to persuade members.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “I would like to thank the councillors for allowing this because it has been very frustrating to get to this point.

“We have had to change the plans several times.”

Cystic fibrosis sees the lungs, digestive system and other organs become clogged with a thick, sticky mucus that can lead to infections and serious complications.

Emma was born with the condition and the youngster has regular check ups at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, plus regular physio sessions. But the new room will allow her to receive treatment at home throughout the year.

Andrew added: “During the summer she loves to play on the trampoline in the garden and that helps clear her lungs, but she can’t do that in the winter.”

Conservative councillor Ray Wells, who is a member of the planning committee, said: “This has been one of the happiest days of my life as a councillor.

“We have applied some common sense here and it is nice to make a massive change to someone’s life.

“We have not set a precedent as we made it very clear that this was a special case.”