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‘We will be a beacon across the country’: Pioneering homeless hostel in Ilford gains unanimous approval

PUBLISHED: 10:15 27 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:49 27 April 2018

Community members walking to the Redbridge town hall for the planning decision on Project Malachi

Community members walking to the Redbridge town hall for the planning decision on Project Malachi

Archant

A pioneering “pop-up” hostel aimed at tackling Redbridge’s homelessness crisis has been granted planning permission with unanimous, cross-party support.

Community members walking to the Redbridge town hall for the planning decision on Project MalachiCommunity members walking to the Redbridge town hall for the planning decision on Project Malachi

A 80-strong procession, led by a marching band, paraded down Ilford High Road to Redbridge Town Hall in support of the Salvation Army’s Project Malachi planning application last night, April 26.

The project aims to create a temporary hostel for rough sleepers and homeless people to rebuild their lives. It will use recycled shipping containers on the site of a crumbling former funeral directors in Chadwick Road.

After 40 minutes of discussion, Redbridge planning committee gave the SA temporary planning permission for five years.

SA Captain John Clifton told the committee: “Last winter, four people that were living on the streets in Redbridge died. We can’t let it happen again.”

Community members walking to the Redbridge town hall for the planning decision on Project MalachiCommunity members walking to the Redbridge town hall for the planning decision on Project Malachi

He cited the borough’s “proud history of helping others - from the hospital chapel in Ilford Hill where “we looked after lepers,” to the Welcome Centre, in St Mary’s Road, where “we look after rough sleepers with day-time services”.

“This will be a project that we can be proud of,” he said.

“We can set a standard for the city, if not the country.”

The hostel will create studio flats for up to 42 people, each one including a bed, sofa, bathroom and kitchen area.

Staffed by volunteers 24/7, the SA plans to offer all residents two and a half hours of support from trained workers.

The SA’s Recycles scheme will set up a shop on-site, providing training for unemployed residents in bicycle repair.

The council chamber’s public gallery was packed to the brim with faith leaders, former rough sleepers, volunteers and community members backing the project.

A petition in support of the project received 423 signatures, while only 11 objections were submitted.

Meenakshi Sharma, an independent candidate for Ilford town centre, spoke in opposition of the plan.

“The location of a hostel for rough sleepers and a cycle repairing business in the heart of the so-called ‘cultural quarter’ is inappropriate,” she said.

She claimed that the shipping containers would “materially harm the character and appearance of the area,” and raised concerns around fire safety risk assessments in the wake of Grenfell.

The SA’s planning agent responded by saying the plans meet fire safety regulations and have clear fire escape routes.

“This is not a tower block,” Labour leader Cllr Jas Athwal added. “To mention Grenfell in the same breath as this application is wrong and should not be considered.”

Keith Prince, GLA member for Redbridge and Havering, also gave his last speech as a Conservative councillor in support of the project.

“There have been objections on the basis of design.

“These objections really don’t stand because it is a town centre that doesn’t have a fixed character,” he said, referring to the contemporary Ilford Exchange and Metro Bank buildings a short distance from the Grade II listed Victorian town hall.

He added: “We will be a beacon, not only for other boroughs, but across the country.”

Labour Cllr Lloyd Duddridge said: “Tonight I can say that this particular application ticks all the boxes.

“I think it meets all the planning guidelines and all the moral guidelines as well.”

As the committee prepared to vote, chairman and Labour councillor Paul Merry said: “While it is regrettable that this is a temporary scheme, it seems to meet all the requisite guidelines.

“I really can’t see a reason to turn this down.”

Planning permission now granted, the SA hope to have Project Malachi running by October.

The SA has pledged £1m towards the estimated £2m building costs.

Crowdfunding campaign Redbridge Together aims to raise an additional £200k to help make the hostel a reality.

You can donate by texting LIFE to 70145 or at Crowdfunder.co.uk/RedbridgeTogether

Businesses big and small are also invited to contributed by pledging donations and offering former rough sleepers work experience.

The campaign is an association between Ilford Salvation Army (SA), The Welcome Centre, Ilford BID, the Ilford Recorder and Redbridge Council.

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