Monday, February 16, 2009

Somer Scrap Plans for Longacre

Controversial plans for a scheme to house homeless people in Snow Hill have been scrapped.

Community leaders and local Councillors David Dixon and Colin Darracott today welcomed the abandonment of the project in London Road, which they had described as a "Victorian workhouse without work."

Housing association Somer had been working with owners Bath and North East Somerset Council for three years on the scheme at 3 and 4 Longacre.

But local residents said the location was wrong, and that criminals could prey on the vulnerable families who would be accommodated there.

Somer - whose Somer Community Housing Trust and Shape Housing Association arms were involved in the scheme - has reviewed the business case for the project over the last six months.

In a statement, it said: "Both Somer Community Housing Trust and Shape are committed to developing housing to the highest standards and will continue to work closely with the council and others on this project.

"Whilst there is an urgent need for housing and support for homeless people in Bath, we must ensure that the scheme we develop is of the highest quality and serves the district well for years to come."

The scheme would have been next to Somer's Caroline House accommodation and would have seen the derelict buildings extended backwards to create new facilities.
Sixteen units would have been created in the conversion, to add to the 17 already at Caroline House.

Somer had called the scheme "sheltered accommodation for homeless households" - but London Road and Snow Hill Partnership chairman Alex Schlesinger said the plans resembled a "Victorian workhouse without the work".

Today he welcomed the decision.

"We want to stress that this wasn't nimbyism - we have got other hostels along here, some of which work very well.

"This wasn't about protecting the community from the residents; this was about protecting the residents from elements of the community.

"This was going to be a magnet for predators."
He said the partnership would now be pressing for the building to be used for community use as a training centre to encourage people to acquire new skills and to encourage fledgling businesses.

Local people have complained to B&NES about the state of the buildings, with claims that chunks have been falling off in recent weeks.

Cllr David Dixon said, "This is great news for the community, Somer Housing have finally seen the light and have understood the impact that this development would have had on the London Road and Snow Hill Area.

"I hope now that the Council will start to work with the community to get these buildings into positive use for the London Road. We have an active skills and enterprise initiative who are keen to bring these buildings into use.

"It is a shame that it took both Somer Housing and the Council 3 years to realise that this sort of development would be irresponsible and I think the London Road and Snow Hill Partnership and other active residents for their help in keeping this issue in the public realm."