Councillors attacked after Rainham hostel plans passed

Councillors were attacked after angry residents revolted against plans to turn sheltered accommodation into a hostel this week.

A regulatory services committee on Tuesday saw plans for Will Perrin Court, in Guysfield Drive, approved, as officers recommended.

Before the meeting started about 90 residents protested outside the town hall with placards.

Inside tensions were high when the meeting started and councillors were heckled and jeered at by protestors.

The hostel item lasted almost two hours, and a motion to refuse the application was put forward by Cllr Ron Ower.

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He branded it as a “cock-up” by the council because of the lack of consultation, and concern it had caused. But this motion was rejected and the original recommendation to approve was passed.

At this point there was confusion from the residents, as they were not initially aware it had been granted. But when chairman Barry Oddy explained this the chamber turned hostile, with shouting and one man attempting to hit Cllr Billy Taylor, who was closest to him.

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The man was held back by residents, but others shouted at the councillors to “watch your backs” and another woman said: “I hope you can sleep at night, because we won’t be able to when this comes.”

She then ripped up her papers and threw them at the councillors, before swearing at them.

Eight police officers were on standby, and entered the chamber to disperse the crowd, while Mr Oddy asked the committee to wait in a side chamber.

Cllr Michael Deon Burton, who was on the committee, said after the meeting: “They were passionate, and this turned to anger when the plans were passed.

“I felt unnerved and saddened by the reaction. Other members remarked they couldn’t remember the last time they found themselves threatened in the council chamber.”

Cllr Steven Kelly, deputy Leader of Havering Council, said: “We do understand that some local residents have concerns about the new hostel and a number became rowdy at the meeting and the police came to calm things down.

“There have been a lot of rumours in the area which are just not true. These plans are not for a bail hostel, or a homeless ‘shelter’ for people with drug or alcohol dependency.”

“Hostel accommodation is mostly requested by local families with young children who cannot afford to rent because they have fallen on hard times. There will be staff on site 24-hours-a-day to ensure that any problems are dealt with immediately.

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