Rough Sleeper Hub: Public meeting on Wednesday 6 Dec.

9 mins read
Location for the Rough Sleeper Hub proposal - Credit: Google Street View

The Council has announced that it will organise a public meeting on Wednesday 6th December at the Lower Hall at Battersea Arts Centre, from 4-7 pm. It will be chaired by Aydin Dikerdem, Wandsworth Cabinet’s lead for Housing.

We announced the meeting in an update to our previous article presenting the rough sleeper hub proposed at 201 – 203 Lavender Hill, located in front of the Battersea Art Centre and just beside the Linden Tree Nursery and the Council has now announced the time and venue.

To say that the proposal has been controversial is an understatement, as it attracted numerous negative comments in a very short period.

The application was quietly placed on the planning portal at the end of September, so discreetly that even the nursery next door and the TaxAssist accountants on the other side of the site were not aware of it.

It’s only by chance that the Community Website stumbled upon the application while browsing the Wandsworth Planning portal (apparently, they entertain themselves in that manner when they have a bit of spare time!). From the day they broke the news, it immediately attracted dozens of objections sent to the Council, reaching a staggering number of five hundred only four weeks after the application was submitted.

When we wrote an article on October 27th, we said:

“The planning application is notably light on documents and assessments, with only a series of internal drawings, a single-page justification with six paragraphs for the need of a Rough Sleeper Hub in Wandsworth, and some formal application forms. There is no assessment, context, or mitigation plan explaining how they intend to address potential nuisances, noise, begging, illicit substances, and other concerns.”

The Battersea Society made exactly the same comment, stating:

“We believe that it is critically important that, before the application proceeds further, the Council should provide much more information about the proposed hub, the services it will offer, how they will be advertised, how referrals to the hub will work, how it will be managed and operate (including access hours), and the extent of outreach work beyond the hub itself. This information should be widely publicised, not least to all those who have commented on the application.”

We contacted the police to get their feedback about the plan but only received a comment after our publishing, stating they “haven’t heard about the project at all“.

A colossal analysis of the responses made by a local community website

The Council’s proposed plan focuses on internal redevelopment and a change of use for a Hub capable of accommodating up to 11 residents. The three-story structure includes a ground floor featuring a reception area, staff offices, meeting room, tea/coffee counter, and kitchen. The first and second floors will offer nine private rooms resembling hostel bedrooms, along with shared facilities and the potential to add two more beds. The third floor will exclusively house offices with secure access. The Hub will have full-time staff including a Manager, Deputy Manager, and night duty staff, providing 24/7 coverage with CCTV surveillance. Services will include Rough Sleeper Housing Assessment Officers, Homeless Healthlink workers, Drug and Alcohol Homeless pathway, and Outreach teams, with various partner agencies offering services by appointment.

The team over at published a monumental work analysing all the comments and classified the 507 objections into 7 categories (certainly something that the planning officer in charge of dealing with the application will appreciate as this is often a very consuming task they have to do for their report).

  1. Unsuitability for a primarily residential areas
  2. Crime, violence and antisocial behaviour
  3. Safeguarding and child protection concerns
  4. The impact of overflow when the facility is fully occupied
  5. Harming local retailers and businesses
  6. A generally poorly explained planning application lacking any details
  7. And last but not least, especially for planning geeks, some noted problems with the proposed ‘Sui generis’ property use class which would actually remove the flexibility of retail/office use and would be detrimental to the high street.

As we said in our previous article, currently, the building is vacant and has reportedly been occupied by squatters, resulting in instances of antisocial behaviour. Some comments questioned the Council’s ability to organise a rough sleeper hostel on the site as they have been unable to control the security of their building, while children are using the nursery next door on a daily basis.

12 recommendations that are needed to make this work

The Council has blamed the lack of experience of the housing team to deal with a planning application for the failure that occurred with the current proposal. Nevertheless, the Council is genuinely committed to tackling the issue of rough sleepers in the borough and offering more facilities and support for homeless people. For 2023 to 2025, they have also received £4.8 million in government funding allocated to support initiatives related to rough sleeping, therefore, they seem determined to push their case, especially as they currently do not consider any better location, close to a town centre and on a main street.

On the other hand, most of the comments received by the Council support the idea of a rough sleeper hub and such an initiative to help homeless people. Therefore, for the plan to be a success, it needs to be much more than a couple of paragraphs and an interior building presentation to convince the local community. has published a list of 12 recommendations that they think are needed for a new application (which should contain, this time, proper details, proper management plans, and explanation of how the following commitments will be included as planning conditions) to work:

  1. The Hub must publish and implement a Good Neighbour Plan: Wandsworth must establish, and publish, a proactive plan that addresses the potential challenges and mitigates them, ensuring smooth operation and peaceful coexistence in the neighborhood. This must set out the options for residents if they encounter abusive or antisocial behaviour, and have a clear complaints and escalation procedure including the ability to have issues appealed to someone independent of the local hostel management if complaints cannot be resolved locally.
  2. The Hub needs to commit to community engagement and awareness: The Hub should engage with the local community and businesses to understand their concerns and incorporate their feedback into the Good Neighbour Plan. They should also organise regular meetings or forums with neighborhood representatives to discuss ongoing issues and solutions.
  3. The Hub needs to operate controlled entry, and run by appointments only: An important one is the need for residents to exclusively be brought to the site, and those seeking services to only arrive on appointment, rather than being allowed to turn up unannounced – to avoid the sites becoming a late night magnet for anyone looking for a room, and people then going away disappointed and causing havoc. This is quite standard in some Hubs (but not all) and significantly helps them be calm and effective places. The Hub must, as a planning condition, be required to implement an appointment-only system for those seeking services to prevent unexpected arrivals and potential disturbances.
  4. The Hub needs to commit to an all-hours complaints hotline: A formal planning and licensing requirement must be that the Hub will operate a 24-hour complaints hotline within the service (which is not likely to be difficult if it is, as suggested, staffed 24/.7). They must ensure advertisement of this telephone & email contact service is prominent for local residents and businesses to see and use.
  5. There must be a requirement for strict enforcement of House Rules: We recognise that the Hub can’t fully control who arrives, and that residents can be complicated people with their own challenges. However the culture of a hostel matter – not least for its own residents who will make better progress if they themselves feel safe there. Good behaviour is also essential for this venture not to cause severe harm to its neighbours. The facility should formulate clear and strict house rules pertaining to noise control, prohibition of begging/shoplifting, abusive or antisocial behaviour inside the facility but also in the neighbourhood, and illicit substance use/dealing. The facility must commit to investigating any neighbourhood complaints / concerns in a timely manner and reporting back to those who raised them, and to implement a swift eviction policy for repeat breaches.
  6. Security within the site – and in its neighbourhood: The Hub must more formally be required to commit to the 24/7 security staffing alluded to in the rather vague proposals, and these staff need to be assigned to regularly patrol areas around the hostel, as well as the site itself, to prevent offsite congregation and ensure the safety and cleanliness of the surrounding area. The hostel should introduce a plan to increase surveillance technology especially in darker alleys / car parking areas opening off Mysore Road and Sisters Avenue immediately behind the hostel where crime and loitering are especially likely.
  7. Provision of Supermarket Vouchers to all residents: As is done on some similar facilities, there must be a commitment to provide all residents who need them with supermarket vouchers to enable them to buy food and general supplies without resorting to shoplifting, in order to reduce harm to nearby traders and businesses through shoplifting and threats to staff.
  8. Support and Rehabilitation Programs: Develop and offer support and rehabilitation programs for residents to address underlying issues and assist with their reintegration into society. Potentially, the Hub could partner with local businesses to explore potential employment opportunities for residents, contributing to their stability and reducing potential strain on the community.
  9. Safeguarding neighbouring businesses: The rear facing windows should be non-openable (to avoid smoking and the throwing / dropping of objects), and the three bedroom windows that face the nursery playground must be permanently fitted with frosted glass as a planning condition. The Hub should also commit to screening any new longer term residents and avoid housing anyone on the sex offenders register next to the nursery school.
  10. Daytime activity: The Hub should ensure that its residents assigned to rooms can, while they are residents, be accommodated ‘full time’, rather than on a minimal overnight-only basis, to ensure that they get some stability, that they feel safe (and that they are confident their possessions are safe), and have somewhere warm and safe to socialise other than neighbouring streets. The design also needs to be amended to provide some onsite ‘living space’ other than just the small bedrooms. An important detail is that the Hub needs to make clear, as part of the application, whether it will allow the consumption of drugs & alcohol onsite to avoid consumption in the surrounding streets.
  11. Monitoring and Evaluation: The Hub needs to regularly (and at least annually) evaluate the effectiveness of the implemented measures and adjust strategies as needed based on continuous monitoring and feedback.
  12. Transparent Communication: The Hub should commit to and ensure transparent communication with residents and businesses about any upcoming changes or developments related to the rough sleeping hub, as well as with police – and agree to report any incidents to the police to enable their work to be linked with wider community crime prevention efforts, as well as to inform police if violent offenders from Category A & B prisons are housed.

They also add:

“Reading this list, you may well be a tad concerned. But do please remember – many of the people at this Hub will be people like you or me for whom things have just all gone wrong at once. We’re not about to see an avalanche of violent addicted sex offenders attacking people on the street and terrorising local businesses. The site isn’t going to be a chaotic 24 hour party venue awash with drugs and mayhem.

The key to making this work, and making this one of the quiet, capable facilities that gets on with the difficult but important business of helping people put their lives back together when they’re at their most vulnerable, rather than one of the badly managed hostels that hardly help anyone but cause endless headaches (and London already has plenty of both), is that there is a well thought through plan to prepare for trouble before it happens, to have excellent communication with neighbours and authorities, and to be open and honest in handling any situations where things do go wrong or changes are needed.”

However, there are genuine concerns that the letter received by the local residents about the public meeting does not address the real issues raised in the more than 500 objections. The meeting itself has not been widely advertised at all, and we have been unable to find any official publicity other than word of mouth from local residents, which might not be encouraging a positive welcome from the community.

Threats, insults and menacing comments towards a community website

There is general agreement that the planning application for the rough sleeper hub proposal has been badly managed and therefore has clearly got off to an unfortunate start. Even the Council agrees with that assessment.

Therefore, we have been very surprised and disturbed to hear that the team of the community website has been harassed despite an article that we consider pretty balanced, presenting the proposal with the necessity to address homelessness while also highlighting the different challenges that such a scheme might raise.

The community website received hostile and threatening direct messages from individuals connected to the issue, with offensive language and threats. These messages contained a political undertone, assuming an affiliation with the Conservative party, to dismiss all the criticisms. This raised concerns about potential repercussions if any member of the community engages with the hostel’s management in the future, especially regarding issues with residents or practices. The level of abuse is unacceptable and indicates potential future problems.

Due to numerous communication failures, the proposal has become a contentious issue for the Council. Any further problems will be directly attributed to them, potentially dooming a well-intentioned plan. Therefore, the meeting scheduled for this Wednesday is a critical milestone for the project.

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CJI editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
He is also funder and CEO of Habilis-Digital Ltd, a digital agency creating and managing websites and Internet solutions.

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