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'Homeless services are at breaking point': Redbridge Council rejects motion to stop building 'poorly designed' modular housing for homeless

PUBLISHED: 18:00 20 September 2019 | UPDATED: 08:32 22 September 2019

South Woodford's temporary accommodation for homeless families featured in George Clarke's Council House Scandal on Channel 4. Picture: Channel 4

South Woodford's temporary accommodation for homeless families featured in George Clarke's Council House Scandal on Channel 4. Picture: Channel 4

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A proposal to stop building temporary modular housing developments for homeless families on council-owned land has been refused by councillors.

The motion, proposed by Conservative leader Councillor Linda Huggett, and seconded by Councillor Howard Berlin, asked Redbridge Council not to build any new modular development of similar design to those in Chigwell Road, South Woodford, near the Charlie Brown roundabout, and those planned to be built in Manford Way, Hainault, on council-owned land until 2030.

It also asks the council not to build any temporary or permanent residential development on any green space on council-owned land until 2030 and ensure that any housing development on council-owned land fully complies with the minimum size requirement of the latest London plan.

Cllr Huggett described the temporary modular housing site in Chigwell Road as a "travesty" and highlighted architect George Clarke's criticism of the site in a recent Channel 4 show.

"How can anyone be expected to live under a filthy flyover? No one in their right mind would construct an animal refuge on that contaminated site," she said.

Cllr Nolan, also speaking in support of the motion, said: "Homes is the important word - providing homes, not units.

"Families should not be put in overcrowded, sub-standard second-hand containers which is what this is...I'm not even sure they meet the standards for a prison cell."

But Councillor Ross Hatfull, who came up with the modular housing proposals at Charlie Brown's roundabout, said: "I do not want to be putting families in tiny modular units in inappropriate sites.

"What I would like to do is put them in decent council homes - but we can't.

"We can't because we have no funding from central government to build council properties.

"Homeless services across London are at breaking point. They can't help individuals to secure their own private housing on the market because what benefits will pay is only half the rent."

Cllr Hatfull said he has worked in homelessness for 20 years and has "never, ever seen the situation as bad as it is now".

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"Councils are firefighting," he said. "Everyday local families lose their homes because they can't afford rents.

"Everyday numbers in temporary accommodation go up. And there's nothing councils can do. Everyday is crisis management. Everyday we are fighting fires, but without any water."

Commenting on the motion itself, he said: "The one thing it doesn't say is what we should do.

"You should at least have the courage to say what we should be doing to house our residents, some of who don't have a roof over their heads tonight."

Leader Councillor Jas Athwal described the motion as "absolutely bonkers".

He said: "Not to build any new modular development - what do we do for that person who doesn't have a home to go to tomorrow?

"Who wants to build on green space? It's wonderful if you have a house of your own, but what about those who don't?"

Councillor Farah Hussain, cabinet member for housing, told councillors that "we are living during a period of crisis".

"A housing crisis which means there are over 2,400 homeless families tonight. Half of them outside the borough because of the lack of affordable properties here.

"I regularly visit the hostels that our councils run - I've met families of five sharing one room.

"We think about those people when we make tough decisions. If it was up to me we would build hundreds of council homes every year to get all homeless families out of temporary accommodation."

Cllr Hussain added: "Nobody thinks the modular housing is ideal.

"They're definitely not beautiful, but they are better than any bed and breakfast I have seen."

The motion was rejected with 46 councillors voting to reject the motion, 10 in favour and one abstained.

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