THE owner of a Great Harwood children's home has spoken out in defence of his residents after the youngsters were blamed for bad behaviour in the town.
Children from Northlands Children's Home, Park Lane, came under fire from residents at a meeting of Great Harwood Area Council.
But manager Peter Evans has spoken out against the claims in a letter, which has been backed by councillors and police.
The children's home opened in the summer after the building, formerly a care home for the elderly, was sold by Lancashire County Council.
It is now home to six boys from areas including Rochdale, Bury, Clitheroe and North Wales, who have been referred by local educational authorities.
Local resident James Rhodes spoke out about yobbish behaviour and acts of vandalism, which had been blamed on the children at Northlands, at the meeting.
He said: "I personally have not seen any of them but I have heard so many grumbles from people. One person has twice seen them on the pavilion trying to damage it."
Another resident added: "I have seen this going on. There was a gang of about 20-plus children aged from eight to 14 effing and blinding at one of my neighbours.
"The man in question is not in good health and has a serious heart problem."
But Councillor Win Frankland, chair of Great Harwood Area Council, said that on some occasions the youngsters had been blamed for incidents in Great Harwood, when they were actually out of the area.
She said: "Some of the things that have been reported to the police happened when the kids were not even at Northlands. One was when they were in Blackpool and the other when they were camping.
"There are three different gangs at the moment, some of them from the so-called posh areas, and they say they are from Northlands to get these kids into bother.
"At the weekends some of the children go home and there are usually only about three there, so when we hear these reports of 17 kids going on the rampage, it is not them.
"These children are not criminals, they are children with special educational needs."
Mr Evans has written a letter to residents of the town, which was distributed at the meeting.
It reads: "I have been made aware in recent weeks of issues/complaints in the local area involving anti-social and/or nuisance behaviour from young people. My understanding is that some of this behaviour is being linked to the young people who currently live at Northlands Children's Home.
"If this is the case I am very keen to talk to local residents and to take action to prevent ongoing problems.
"I am also aware of certain complaints being apportioned to the young people living at Northlands when it quite clearly couldn't have been the case.
"One example is an incident that occurred when all of our young people were out on a supervised day trip with staff. Obviously this bothers me on a personal level as it damages the reputation of Northlands Children's Home.
"However I am equally concerned on a community level - because if the finger is firmly pointed at Northlands young people when they are not at fault then we are doing nothing to tackle the problem and the behaviour that is affecting you will continue."
The letter went on to say that many of the complaints were being passed to Northlands second-hand and were general comments rather then specific incidents with times and dates.
Mr Evans explained that the home is staffed 24 hours a day and included a contact number for residents to ring with any complaints.