Concerns over hostel redevelopment to be passed to developer

Harold Hill hostel redevelopment

Havering's strategic planning committee gathered on Thursday - October 7 - to discuss the proposed redevelopment of the Abercrombie House hostel in Hilldene Avenue. - Credit: Steve Poston

Concerns about the redevelopment of a Harold Hill hostel are to be passed onto the developers tasked with creating the final proposal.

Havering's strategic planning committee convened on Thursday (October 7) to discuss the proposed demolition of Abercrombie House, a 40-room hostel in Hilldene Avenue.

Its mooted revamp is part of a wider initiative in the area, which also features schemes in the Farnham and Hilldene Estate and Chippenham Road.

Council leader Damian White has previously said the authority wants to redevelop the hostel into "modern, state of the art, emergency family accommodation".

Currently in the pre-application stage, Thursday's meeting was intended as an opportunity for councillors to comment before a full planning application is submitted.

A new building of up to four storeys would be built in place of the current hostel under the plans, which include provision for a 74-unit hostel and medical centre.

Several aspects of the scheme were scrutinised by committee members, including Cllr Reg Whitney (Residents' Group, Hacton) who queried the size of the units. 

"No matter if it's temporary accommodation or not, or I don't know how long they'll stay there, they're entitled to space and decent living," he said.

Nick Gaskell of Hawkins Brown architects said this potential issue had already been considered and the number of units reduced from 85 to 74. 

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Cllr Keith Darvill (Labour, Heaton) asked about the average length of time people stay in the temporary accommodation, arguing the committee "may feel more satisfied if it was a smaller average stay than if it's a longer one".

Katri Wilson, assistant director of supported housing at Havering Council, confirmed this is currently three and a half months.

Cllr Ray Best (Con, Havering Park) addressed the controversial alleged issue with drugs on the site.

He asked what safeguarding provision was included in the plans, and Ms Wilson responded: "Security and safety of our residents and children is the paramount importance, so we're installing a wide range of CCTV cameras throughout the building."

All the points raised are to be passed onto the developers by Havering's head of strategic development, Simon Thelwell.