TENANTS ON an Upper Norwood council estate are protesting against plans to use a former childrens’ home there to house 27 ‘vulnerable’ people.
London Housing Trust want to lease the former childrens’ home at 3 Highland Road after it was bought at auction by a property developer.
But tenants leader Jean Haley says that when it was previously used previously as a hostel for Kosovan refugees they would sit on the grassed communal area – in a quiet backwater of the estate – drinking outside tenants homes until 2 a.m.
And Andrew Gibson, a former Conservative councillor for Gipsy Hill ward in which the estate sits, says turning the property into a hostel would be contrary to “saved policy 15 of the unitary development plan (UDP) ” – i.e against the council’s planning policy.
“But the council says it can’t rule on planning until it has made a decision about what is before it – namely a request for a “certificate of lawful development”.
The childrens’ home, originally built as part of the 1970s estate, did not last long and was eventually acquired by an American woman named Thier who began using it as a hostel for Kosovan refugees before getting planning permission for change of use. Miss Thier later appealed against a Lambeth council enforcement notice and lost.
The appeal inspector said: “…a residential use of the building as a hostel for refugees, mostly young men separated from their families, is not likely to be easily absorbed into an area characterised by households of elderly, long-standing residents.”
Jean told News From Crystal Palace: “Initially the trust spoke of having two experienced full-time staff on the premises 24/7 “Now they’ve added two apprentices and a number of volunteers. “Vulnerable people need people who know how to treat them and look after them.
“I held a public meeting about this. “I had to threaten to close the meeting because people were so angry. “What we are all against is the way they are treating our estate. “It’s upsetting a lot of people.
“We’ve just got the estate nice” says Jean, who has chaired the tenants association for 30 years, “We had trouble with yobs, trouble with graffiti, trouble with vandalism.”
Andrew Gibson said: “We hope this will not be granted and then it would presumably be a planning matter and the application would be deemed against policy 15.
“An objection we have is that there are already so many hostels in this area. There are two on Victoria Crescent. “I am not against hostels per se – they are needed – but the council seems to be using a relatively deprived area as a dumping ground.”
LONDON HOUSING TRUST’S website states: “All of our clients are referred to us via a number of different organisations that assist homeless people. “A high proportion of our residents have experienced long term homelessness and have been street homeless for some time. “They have a variety of physical and mental health problems that have been enhanced by the street life experience. “In addition to their homelessness, a typical resident will have several other challenges to face – ranging from learning difficulties to not being able to handle their financial affairs. “Many have experienced significant trauma – in childhood; in the armed forces; on the streets.”Most people who become homeless feel very isolated; many have lost contact with all their friends and families. “People come to us with increasingly complex needs, including dual diagnosis and to help them recover we must constantly modify and modernise our homeless services. “Our clients’ achievements as they work towards recovery are made even greater by the significant hurdles they have overcome.
“In this time of austerity and the changes to the benefits system more and more young people and families are coming into homelessness than we have seen before. “In the last year we have seen more victims of domestic violence (DV) and we have developed several DV projects to cope with demand.”
(NEWS FROM CRYSTAL PALACE is not aware of any complaints relating to the two hostels on Victoria Crescent or any relating to another hostel on Farquhar Road.)