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Council leaders grilled over Rainham super-hostel.

PUBLISHED: 13:41 23 August 2011 | UPDATED: 14:46 23 August 2011

Councillors and residents demonstrating against a new hostel in Rainham. - Jessica Edmunds aged 6 with her banner

Councillors and residents demonstrating against a new hostel in Rainham. - Jessica Edmunds aged 6 with her banner

Archant

Council leaders were accused of turning Rainham into the “dump of Havering” in a heated showdown on a new super-size homeless hostel earmarked for the area.

Cllrs Michael White and Steven Kelly, council leader and his deputy, faced a grilling on the future of former old people’s home, Will Perrin Court, by around 150 protesting residents, placards in hand, who had crammed into Havering Council chambers.

Plans for the hostel, in Guysfield Drive, were deemed “too big”, and residents feared for the safety of children and homes.

“We are hardworking households,” said one memeber of the public. “I do not want my childnre anywhere near a hostel. They [inhabitants] could be drug-takers, they could be paedos. I have four children, but you are forcing my hand to move because I don’t want it there.”

But Cllr Kelly played down the risks, during the Ask the Cabinet session last Wednesday evening.

“[Hostels] are not full of drug, drink-sodden people who come from outside the borough,” he said. “They are very simply families similar to you who have lost their jobs, lost their way, or haven’t paid their mortgage.”

Residents would “with very few exceptions” stay no longer than 13 weeks, he explained.

But a member of the public accused the deputy leader of double standards.

“He seems to paint a nice picture, but would he want it where he lives?” she asked. “We are sick of being the dump of Havering!”

The council wants to convert the building into 32 bedsits; 12, one bedroom flats; and two, one bedroom disabled flats.

The hostel will save money by replacing three existing council-run homes.

Blueprints will go before the council’s planning department in the next few weeks to determine whether the £1.5m refit will be given the go-ahead.

Residents were told the processs was “open and transparent” by Cllr White, and were encouraged to submit objections before the sitting.

After the meeting, protest organiser Cllr Michael-Deon Burton (Independent, South Hornchurch) said: “Let us hope that too many of the administration do not forget that our best decisions, our most positive decions which shape our local area, are best achieved when we listen to the voices of local people.

“My residents of South Hornchurch are making their feelings known with an almighty shout.”


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