While an initial date of 18th January 2024 was published for the Rough Sleeper Hub application to be considered by the Planning Application Committee, CJI was told that the plan is currently on hold.
At the very end of September, an application for the Rough Sleeper Hub on Lavender Hill appeared on the Wandsworth Planning Portal. The Council’s proposal outlines internal redevelopment and a change of use for a hub designed to accommodate up to 11 residents, featuring a reception area, staff offices, meeting room, tea/coffee counter, and kitchen.
- Read our article with a presentation of the scheme: A rough sleeper hub is proposed in front of the Battersea Art Centre
However, the housing department who was in charge of the application did submit so little details initially that not only Wandsworth planning department responded that further information was needed, but it spiraled into growing concerns within the community, resulting in over 500 objections in just a few weeks.
Residents expressed worries about managing the challenges of accommodating residents with complex needs in a less-than-ideal location that is already populated with children and facing its own unique set of challenges.
In an attempt to calm the local outcry, Aydin Dikerdem, Cabinet member for housing and consequently accountable for the proposal, organised a public meeting on the 5th of December. Approximately 100 people attended, providing an opportunity for the Council to exchange and explain their intentions to the public.
- Read our article: The Council tries to reassure on the Rough Sleeper Hub proposal
Many concerns remain unanswered
A wide range of understandable concerns have been raised by neighbours, especially regarding locating the rough sleeper hub near a nursery and in close proximity to other facilities catering to small children.
The meeting provided significant details about the housing arrangements and the Housing team handed a leaflet with Q&A to those who attended the meeting.
However, while some of the explanations given at the meeting look to go some way to addressing the worries, various issues remain outstanding. Even in instances where clarifications have been offered to neighbours, it is apparent that significantly more detailed information needs to be submitted in writing to realistically get through the planning process.
This includes some underlying questions about the Council’s communication regarding the plan, the lack of specifics regarding expected management -especially considering the past experiences of neighbours near the Cedars Road hostel – and apprehensions about effectively addressing the challenges of accommodating residents with complex needs in a less-than-ideal location that is already populated with children.
Furthermore, questions remain unanswered regarding why the provision for the entirety of Richmond and Wandsworth is being concentrated in this location on Lavender Hill, while Westminster and Lambeth have also placed their facilities close to this part of the Borough, resulting in an unusually high concentration of services in a small area.
The police confirmed awareness of the hub plan after being contacted by Wandsworth Council but declined to provide further comment.
The proposal is currently on hold
The planning officer in charge stated that the plan is currently on hold, leading to the removal of any date for future submission to the Planning Application Committee.
As of now, no additional documents have been submitted by the applicants, and the 515 objections are awaiting attention.
The officer agreed that the document submitted by the Housing department was really thin and not enough to constitute a valide planning application. She heard that the housing department was currently working on consolidating additional information they have collected on the case but was unable to confirm whether it would lead to further submission.
Due to the separation of Wandsworth Council departments, the planning officer explained that receiving limited information is not unusual, especially considering the need to avoid conflicts of interest, particularly with the planning department.
If no progress is made by the end of February, the planning officer stated that they will contact the housing department, suggesting the withdrawal of the application, with the possibility of resubmission at a later, more prepared time.
Further news might appear at some point on the portal’s page for application 2023/3434.