CELLBLOCK – 22 South Street

17/10/2019

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I haven’t attended development committee for sometime as I no longer sit on the committee and the Lib Dems are represented by our two other Councillors. However last night I had good cause to attend to speak on an item that I felt was worthy of additional support to my colleagues.

Item 10 (1) on the agenda was a “PROPOSAL TO REINSTATE AND CONVERT AN EXISTING OUT BUILDING TO PROVIDE 2 NO. 1-BED DWELLING UNITS WITHIN THE C3 USE CLASS”

Lib Dem Councillor Chris Stanley referred the item to the committee on the grounds of lack of amenity – which could be better put as a lack of outdoor space.

I had been approached by Cllr Christine Mason (Rochford District Residents) to read a prepared statement and had also discussed the application with her, as it was becoming apparent there is an appetite by officers to propose a downturn in the quality of temporary accomodation, such as in the case of Harlow.

“At least a prison cell has nearby outside space – these proposed units has none!”

The proposed 1 bed bedsits could potentially be occupied by 4 persons, 1 adult, a single bed used to ‘top and tail’ children and a cot, I could not in all conciousness support this idea. With this vision of overcrowding we need to treat residents who find themselves in this situation with more compassion.

So what is life like in temporary accomodation?

South Street, whilst providing valuable temporary accommodation was designed and subsequently approved by this authority without any communal space other than a very small outbuilding that houses washing machines.  Indeed although the rooms allow for family accommodation when Councillors were shown around prior to occupation one of the main concerns we raised with the officers was both the lack of community space and the fact that residents had no table but would be expected to perch on their beds or a chair (not provided) and eat of off their laps.  We do not know if these concerns were subsequently addressed or not.

Residents can often expect to find themselves in temporary accomodation for up to 3 months.

Cllr Christine Mason

The officers report suggested that the no outdoor space would be fine as the is public open space ‘a short walk away’ – the report also stated that the unit would be fitted out for disabled persons!

The area to the rear serves as a car parking area and could also be used for informal amenity use in part when the car park is not fully occupied. There is however public open space a relatively short walk away. Given the circumstances at the site and the public open space nearby, in this instance the lack of on-site amenity space is not considered objectionable.

“Cruel & uncaring Conservatives voted this through as if there is no alternative”

Despite objections from other opposition members, Cllr Adrian Eves (RDR), Cllr Chris Stanley (Lib Dem) & Cllr Stuart Wilson (Greens)  – Conservative councillors waved the application through.

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