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'This road is just not suitable for this type of development:' Objections over supported housing scheme

PUBLISHED: 09:26 18 March 2019 | UPDATED: 09:26 18 March 2019

Some of the five properties in Cleveland Road, Lowestoft being proposed for a new supported housing scheme. Pictures: Mark Boggis

Some of the five properties in Cleveland Road, Lowestoft being proposed for a new supported housing scheme. Pictures: Mark Boggis

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Dozens of objectors have raised concerns about a proposal to create supported housing in a terraced street.

Residents around Cleveland Road, in Lowestoft, have been left fearing for the area after the plans were revealed.

More than 30 objections have been raised to Waveney District Council about the proposal, which would see five council-owned properties converted into supported housing.

Stuart Brett, of Cleveland Road, said: “We bought our home and have been very happy here for nearly six years. We have a nearly 13-year-old daughter with extreme special needs.

Cleveland Road in Lowestoft where five townhouses are being proposed for a new supported housing scheme. Pictures: Mark BoggisCleveland Road in Lowestoft where five townhouses are being proposed for a new supported housing scheme. Pictures: Mark Boggis

“Having sheltered housing either side of our home was not part of our plan when we purchased our property.

“Gracie loves nothing more than playing in the paddling pool or walking up and down the road with her frame and greet neighbours. I have serious concerns about her being overlooked by whoever resides in the neighbouring properties.

“Her quality of life would be seriously effected by these developments and we are fighting this all the way for her.

Some of the five properties in Cleveland Road, Lowestoft being proposed for a new supported housing scheme. Pictures: Mark BoggisSome of the five properties in Cleveland Road, Lowestoft being proposed for a new supported housing scheme. Pictures: Mark Boggis

“We aren’t against sheltered housing in principle as my wife and I both worked in the care sector for years, but this road is just not suitable for this type of development.”

Despite assertions the properties would house those with a variety of support needs, some residents are concerns about the tenants who could be moving in.

Lisa Mowatt, of Cleveland Road, said: “I am extremely worried about the proposal because from what I understand these supported living houses are not just for adults with mental health issues but also for ex-offenders and drug abusers.

Some of the five properties in Cleveland Road, Lowestoft being proposed for a new supported housing scheme. Pictures: Mark BoggisSome of the five properties in Cleveland Road, Lowestoft being proposed for a new supported housing scheme. Pictures: Mark Boggis

“I have three daughters and my youngest has chronic kidney failure and special needs, so as a parent I am very concerned.

“I was told when I purchased this house that they were not going to be converted and they were being sold off as family homes.

“This is going to decrease the value of our properties because who would want to buy a house knowing what the neighbours are.”

Other residents have highlighted the “unspeakably sad” deaths of Fiona Anderson and her three young children on nearby London Road South in 2013.

One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Grosvenor was a horrible place to live five years ago with terrible drug problems and knife fights in the street. Is a mental health facility appropriate?

“We want people to know it is a nice place to live again, with some nice people and families, and there is hope, but we are scared this will set us back. The community has recovered but it will go back to its old ways and reputation.

“Some of us have made our houses amazing but the reputation still clings to these roads after events here over the years which tragically our streets are known for.

“We do not want to appear insensitive but we need to protect our own community and families too. It is a shame that people, including myself, are concerned but too frightened to say anything to be singled out as an objector.

“What happened in the past was unspeakably sad but the community needs to move on. It’s time.

“My overriding concern with the proposal, given the past history of the area and also the first-hand experience of living here is that one has to question the merit of placing ex-offenders and drug misusers who are still vulnerable or going through therapy, in amongst young children and families.”

Another anonymous resident, who has lived on Grosvenor Road for four years, said: “The local community are outraged by this development of five beautiful houses being converted into flats for ex-offenders, addicts and people with serious mental illnesses proposed for Cleveland Road.

“It is becoming a dumping ground for unsociable and troublesome tenants. These flats will open the floodgate for any other house to be converted and will quickly return these streets to ghetto status.

“These houses would be better served if they were sold as luxury homes to working people. This would encourage families to move in and promote instead of degrading.”

Residents were contacted about the plans in January, with the completed scheme set to be managed by MAVAM, subject to planning approval.

The proposal would see two offices for support workers who will provide 24 hour care for residents, as well as a communal kitchen and living space.

Jacqueline Hardie said: “This is an area that has for decades had a reputation for housing unfortunates, drug abusers and other social misfits in bedsits.

“I do not wish to disparage those less fortunate or indeed the vulnerable, but it can only leave a bad taste in the mouths of us who have bought and restored houses.

“How can we bring the town back to its former glory and make it both a great place to live and a destination, if the streets are littered with the evidence of something resembling a waste ground.”

Town councillor backs residents

Councillor Alice Taylor, who represents Kirkley ward on Lowestoft Town Council, has sent an open letter to all Waveney District councillors, calling for the houses to be sold on the open market and use the funds raised to create a bespoke facility for the tenants.

She said: “It’s not a good proposal and has many issues that make it a bad plan for the neighbourhood.

“But it’s also a bad plan for the proposed tenants who would use the housing. The non-contiguous houses mean that many tenants wouldn’t be supervised properly. Crowding and over saturation in the area will certainly contribute to a stressful environment for a vulnerable populations.

“Kirkley is fast being gentrified and those houses have had numerous recent inquiries from people interested in buying them as private homes.

“I propose that instead of throwing good money after bad and doing a bodge job that suits no one, the council simply sell the existing houses and... [create] a bespoke facility we can all be proud of and one that will work for the tenants.”

Supported housing ‘meets a high need’

The five houses would provide 14 units of supported housing accommodation and is set to go before East Suffolk Council’s planning committee next month.

A Waveney District Council spokesman said: “Local residents and community groups were invited to a consultation event on March 6 where council officers were available to answer questions and concerns.

“Waveney District Council is entirely committed to providing a full range of appropriate housing for our communities, including those who are vulnerable and requiring support.

“We would not present such proposals if we believed that there was any reason for local people to be concerned and the portrayal by some of both the scheme, and the potential residents, has at times lacked accuracy.

“The proposals are for the redevelopment of five council-owned properties to deliver supported housing for up to 14 individuals in lease agreement with Mavam Supported Housing who work with vulnerable people aged 16 upwards. The proposals, however, are entirely subject to planning consent and the application will be heard in April.

“The council has stated aims to increase the supply of housing and specifically to deliver new supported housing where demand is at its highest. This proposal seeks to make best use of resources and opportunities available to the council to deliver these objectives.

“The current need for large family homes of this size is not significant and an analysis of recent lettings has shown that only two from the last 10 lettings of these properties have been to a family who actually needed this size of property. Additionally a number of the properties have been empty for some time.

“However, there is a clear need in East Suffolk need for accommodation to house people with Support Needs and transforming these large properties from unpopular and under-occupied family accommodation to good quality supported housing, which meets a high need, is a positive approach making best use of our housing stock.

“All options, including full renovation to attract open market purchasers have been considered, however a maximum value on the current unimproved property does not generate a financial return to warrant the level of work and expenditure required and local estate agents have suggested to us that there would be minimal market interest in these properties for a lawful use as six bedroom dwellings.”

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