Homes for homeless halted

Council risks losing GLA funding to build modular homes for the homeless, as development plans are deferred

The proposed site in Ermine Road Credit: Stephen Furner

By Luchia Robinson

An application to provide 37 modular homes for the borough’s homeless residents has been deferred by Haringey’s Planning Sub Committee for the second time.

Apprehensions about the proposed site in Ermine Road N15 (Seven Sisters ward) include: overcrowding; limited amenity space; increased pollution; and feeling unsafe, with concerns about safeguarding local children.

The first deferral in January was to explore removing Block A of the three-block proposal. This was particularly contested because of fears the two-storey building would overlook the nearby residences, and that the extra residents would cause overcrowding.

The amended plan discussed at last month’s planning meeting included keeping Block A, but adding louvered screens to the front, upper level.

Robbie Erbmann, Haringey Council’s Assistant Director for Housing, denied overcrowding would be an issue. He said: “The removal of Block A will involve the removal of homes and every single one of these homes is a life changing opportunity. For us not to maximise the number of these life changing opportunities would be us doing a disservice to the residents in our borough.

“We cannot delay this scheme any further, lives depend on it.”

Haringey Council was awarded funding from the GLA’s Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme to build 38 units (37 one-person supported living homes at 24sqm, and one office). The proposed plan also includes 38 cycle parking spaces, one disabled car parking space, and one space for emergency deliveries.

Levels of homelessness in Haringey are high and the plans for modular homes at the Ermine Road site, although temporary (seven years because the plot is earmarked for Crossrail 2), have been hailed as a means of rapidly meeting the demand for homes.

However, some local residents are concerned that there will be an increase in anti-social behaviour and crime as a result of the modular homes being built.

Seven Sisters ward councillor, Cllr Barbara Blake (Independent) said: “The redesign is wholly inadequate and does not address the concerns raised by this committee or by residents.

“In general, because Block A is remaining, there will be a lack of open space, along with these very small modular units, for the people who will be living in them.

“This is an area with high levels of crime, there are already problems with anti-social behaviour and street drinking in Ermine Road and the High Road in general. This site is totally unsuitable for this development.”

Cllr Blake said the consultation process had been “inadequate and flawed,” and that Ermine Road residents had been “maligned” and had not had their thoughts or views considered properly.

The Planning Committee’s second deferral decision last month was for the applicant to consider removing Block A, or taking the top floor off to reduce the numbers of homes on the site. The decision saw five votes in favour of deferral (Labour), four votes against deferral (three Lib Dem, one Labour) and one abstention (Labour).

Molly Carter, a volunteer with homeless outreach group, Haringey Streets Kitchen, said: “To think about reducing the number of homes made available in the development feels like a real shame, and maybe it doesn’t have the best interest of the rough sleepers at heart.

“Objectors have been talking about homeless people as inherently anti-social or inherently criminal […], as if all rough sleepers are inherently engaged in that kind of behaviour.

“People keep citing residents’ concerns, but who’s thinking about the homeless people? Homeless people living in Haringey are also Haringey residents; just because they don’t have the privilege of owning a home or being able to rent, they are still Haringey constituents – they are still members of our community.”

Molly added: “To comment on the planning application for this development itself, you have to submit your address and your postcode, so rough sleepers have been excluded from the process of talking about the development. So, not only are the lives and wellbeing of our rough sleepers at risk, there is also an issue of local democracy in ensuring that people are being represented and that their voices are being heard.”

Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison (Lib Dem, Crouch End), Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group and a member of the planning sub-committee, moved for the proposals to go ahead. He said: “To have Haringey Council Labour councillors block proposals made by their own council to house 37 of our most vulnerable residents on the grounds of too many units is a decision I find difficult to comprehend.

“This application has now been deferred for a second time due to too many units on the site, despite the units being no taller than the two-storey terrace houses around it. Yet we see huge tower blocks, densely packed around areas like Tottenham Hale voted through by this committee time and time again.

Cllr Cawley-Harrison added: “The significant benefits of a managed, housing first scheme like this one, are well evidenced, and I hope that this deferral does not lead to Haringey missing out on the GLA funding for this project.”

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