Temporary housing for homeless in Hainault park approved – but campaigners vow to continue fight
- Credit: Archant
An application to build temporary accommodation for homeless families in a well-loved Hainault park has been approved despite receiving more than 1,200 objections.
Redbridge Council’s planning committee last night (April 25) gave the go-ahead to plans to erect 60 units of prefabricated modular housing in Woodman Road park, near Manford Way for 10 years.
The heated discussions lasted for around an hour and a half, with vice chairman Paul Merry (Lab, Wanstead Park) warning the dozens of concerned Hainault residents in the public gallery to stop shouting during the proceedings.
“Do you want to be responsible for taking this [park] away from a generation of children in Hainault?” campaigner Ashley Papworth asked the committee during her speech.
“These buildings are, by Redbridge’s own admission, not aesthetically pleasing.
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“They would detract from a local park that is a treasure for the community.”
A total of 1,224 representations against the scheme were submitted from 728 addresses.
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Ahead of the meeting, campaigners also handed the committee a lengthy legal document including photos they say refute claims the three-storey development will not have a “significant” impact on neighbours’ sunlight.
A council officer talked through the technical details of proposals and circulated a four-page addendum 15 minutes before the meeting began.
This document responded to accusations the development breaches policies protecting green spaces set out in the council’s Local Plan and the National Planning Policy Framework and complaints that the bedsits are smaller than legal standards permit.
“While the proposal would result in a reduction in the amount of open space available to 55per cent of the total area,” the document read. “The proposals will enhance the quality of the remaining open space with the introduction of cricket stumps on either end of the [multi-use games area].”
The document also highlighted that the scheme, because of its temporary nature, is not bound by the legal space standards that apply to permanent applications.
The officer said the scheme will consist of two three-storey blocks each containing 24 two-bed units for three person homes and six one-bed units for two people - accommodating a total of 168 people.
After probing from councillors, she confirmed the size of the bedsits is around 40 square metres while the standards for a one-bedroom unit should be 50 square metres for permanent use.
Speaking in favour of the application was the council’s head of housing management Elaine Gosling and head of capital projects Kelly Wallace.
“We have 2,418 people living in temporary accommodation, a number of people are living bed and breakfast type units which are often shared use,” Ms Gosling said.
“It is an environment where children do not have the facilities they need to grow their skills.”
She highlighted that many of Redbridge’s homeless residents have been housed outside the borough and could be brought back and reintegrated through the development.
Ms Wallace told the chamber that the scheme has freed up council funds to improve the park for the “existing community” – by revamping the basketball courts through landscaping.
She said: “We have an opportunity through the development to access capital funding, instead of revenue funding which we know is being pulled in all directions.”
She spoke of the possibility of planting a “sensory garden” that could benefit the residents of neighbouring dementia care home Pinewood, after having spoken to one of their staff at an informal consultation event.
But this provoked outrage from the public gallery as a member of the care home’s management committee denied ever having been consulted.
Cllr Michael Duffell (Con, South Woodford) quizzed developers on whether, in nine years’ time, the scheme could be granted planning permission to remain in place for a further 10 years.
The council’s legal adviser confirmed this was possible.
He added: “It is a fundamental principle of English policy and law that you can’t bind your successors.
“It is up to them in nine years’ time, or if you are sitting here, to make that decision.”
A representative from Elliot UK said the maximum lifespan of the shipping containers is 50 years.
Concluding the meeting, chairman Paul Merry said: “As the scheme originally started I did not support it.
“As you know, subsequently there have been negotiations and changes made and on that basis I will be able to support it.”
The council had originally also applied for an almost identical 30-unit development in nearby Brocket Way park. That was refused last month amid opposition.
All eight Labour councillors voted in favour of the Manford Way scheme while the two Conservative councillors voted against.
After the meeting, Ms Papworth said: “The residents of Hainault are deeply disappointed and angry with tonight’s results.
“As a community group we will not be giving up the fight and we will be taking it all the way to the High Court and judicial review.” The campaign group has set up a crowdfunding page where you can donate money to cover legal costs.