Avalon House

London Housing Association L&Q plans to use Avalon House, 114-116 Manor Avenue, as a “hostel for single homeless people without support needs and many of whom are currently in expensive temporary accommodation or at risk from homelessness.”
L&Q has been told that it needs to apply for planning permission for a change of use and has written to nearby residents (including Brockley Central) to inform them of their plans. It claims that this use would "support Lewisham Council's housing strategy."
An organisation called Friends of Manor Avenue opposes the plans on two main grounds:
  • They believe that Brockley already bears more than its fair share of accommodation for at-risk communities, including “more than twelve hostels… within a short walk”
  • They believe that the former residents were relocated against their will. This is something that L&Q denies (saying that they were "actively involved in decommissioning") and which Cllr Vicky Foxcroft says she has no knowledge of but has agreed to investigate. They believe that the purpose to which the property has been put in recent years should not be changed
We have been contacted by a number of residents concerned by the plans, who have asked us to highlight the issue.
In Brockley Central’s view, every community needs to do its bit to accommodate such facilities. They can be problematic for other local residents (a house very near us is used for similar purposes, which is mostly absolutely fine, but did once lead to our neighbour having to call the police after one resident who failed to take his medication harassed her outside her house) and occupy properties that might otherwise be used for social housing, but the same thing is true wherever they are located.
However, if it is the case that Brockley already has a greater concentration of such facilities than other parts of the borough, then we believe the planning application should be refused and the house used to accommodate other families in need. If the Council's housing strategy is to locate a high concentration of such facilities in Brockley then it is a bad strategy.
This is the key question. It’s one that Cllr Vicky Foxcroft agrees needs to be answered and has asked the Council to address. She has also asked for a community consultation meeting to be held in September, where these issues can be discussed with local residents.
This seems a sensible and proportionate response, which will hopefully allow the matter to be decided on the basis of facts, rather than speculation or spin.
We look forward to reporting the issue in more detail in due course.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn't this a care home they want to change.

notanimby said...

I'm sure the good people of Brockley's conservation area who are well known for their social conscience will have absolutely no problem with this.

mk said...

Brockley has twelve hostels? Do you just mean general accommodation here or hostels that specifically cater to the disadvantaged/homeless?

Brockley Nick said...

I don't know. That is a claim made by the residents group, but I assume it means people who would otherwise be homeless. Also, not 12 in Brockley, but twelve within an (unspecified) short distance. There will be far more in Brockley overall.

mk said...

I had no idea there were that many. But as anon 15.47 points out, it's currently a residential care home for people with learning disabilities, so it doesn't strike me as a particularly drastic change of use.

raving nimby said...

I live far enough away not to be bothered about it

TJ said...

As for Hostels that care for the homeless - to my knowledge there are 2 on Tressillian Road, 1 on Breakspears and I on Wickham run by one housing association (not the one mentioned). I have to liaise with their housing manager form time to time. I would not be suprised if the total number over the varying housing associations and different trusts was at about 12.

TJ said...

Also I think there is a big difference between a care home or hostel for those with learning difficulties and a hostel for the homeless.

It's not a scientific comparasion but on Tressillian there are both types of hostel - and the one for the homeless has casued all sorts of anti-social behaviour including a court case for criminal damage. Whilst the other home doe snot generate such problems. This has probably less to do with the inhabitants of both hostels but on how they are run.

Anonymous said...

I've got the news letter and it doesn't claim that at all. L&Q tried to do it without planning permission.

Brockley Nick said...

Doesn't claim what at all please? I'm not trying to misrepresent anyone, please let me know specifically what you think is wrong and I will address.

Anonymous said...

“In many of its answers, of which you have not been made aware, (or of the plan for a hostel too), L&Q initially claimed that the former vulnerable service users of Avalon House--long term residents--no longer needed the care home. It claims it had sought advice from Lewisham Planning, but the response it claims it was given that it needed no planning permission was denied by planning officers.”
That's what it says

Cy said...

"They believe that the former residents were relocated against their will."

Having trouble finding that in my newsletter too. Where did you get this information, Nick?

Brockley Nick said...

OK, but that doesn't contradict anything I wrote about the FOMA letter. It's a very long letter and I included what I think are the two most powerful points.

Brockley Nick said...

@Cy - the letter from FOMA (is that what you mean by newsletter?) says:

"Were the former vulnerable residents of Avalon House shunted out or did they simply leave? According to neighbours their belongs [sic], private photos and even medical reports were dumped into a skip and left for public inspection. These residents lived happily in the street for decades - and have now gone.

"L&Q's reasons for the move are at odds with information supplied by a person inside Avalon House."

If this text (and other passages in the letter and in emails I have seen) is not meant to suggest that the residents were moved out against their will, then I have clearly misunderstood and am happy to correct if someone from FOMA wants to explain what point was trying to be made here.

Anonymous said...

Avalon House was a residential care home, managed by Aurora for at least 25 years, for adults with severe learning disabilities who have high support needs served by a high staff to client ratio (10 Aurora employees according to the L&Q planning application).

What is proposed by L&Q is very different - a hostel for the homeless with no care provided.

If you want to find information on hostels and care homes in Brockley/Lewisham it is freely available on Homeless London, Care Home, Turning Point and other websites.

Headhunter said...

Yes I'm confused about the whole planning permission thing. L&Q delivered a letter to residents in the area about their plans and stated that they did NOT need planning permission for change of use which immediately made me wonder why Lewisham BC was trying to rush this through without consulting its constituents...

Brockley Nick said...

@HH - I'm not sure what letter you're referring to, but the undated one I got from L&Q a couple of weeks ago acknowledged that they do need to and the link included in the article shows that planning permission has been applied for. Whether they initially did or didn't think they could proceed without it is now moot, I guess.

FOMA said...

AVALON HOUSE

Concerns were raised when former vulnerable residents suddenly disappeared from the street, having lived in it for quite a long time.

Neither L&Q nor the care-home provider would say where these long-term residents had been moved - which worried many in Manor Avenue.

The care home provider has now informed us that these residents were not forced out by a rent hike--L&Q pays the council £10 a year for the two houses which is sublet to the care home provider-- even though someone within Avalon House itself stated that this was the case.

Following our letter which alerted residents to the plans, something which the Council and L&Q did not do by the way, the provider finally responded to us.

Apparently some of its former residents were split into smaller units following a change in the business model. The care home provider claims that they did not dump personal ‘belongings’ in the skip (if they were wanted). Neither were medical records disposed of in this manner; even though a resident claims personal records were in fact ‘dumped’.

Initially L&Q claimed that it did not need planning permission and that it would move the new user group in this June.

It was only when the Planning Department was informed of the plan that L&Q was then ‘invited’ to apply for permission.

It claimed it did not know planning permission was needed, even though it manages 9000 homes.

London and Quadrant (L&Q) plans to use Avalon House as a “hostel for single homeless people without support needs and many of whom are currently in expensive temporary accommodation or at risk from homelessness.”

At least this is what it now claims...

However, the Council and L&Q initially claimed that two hostels urgently need to be ‘decanted’ via its Single Homeless Intervention Programme (SHIP) and gave differing accounts of this and would not provide addresses for these hostels.

Concerns were raised further when the SHIP website was visited because the user type varied greatly with the claim above, and with others given by the Council and L&Q.

Having been approached by residents, Councillor Foxcroft--amongst others actually--has been invited to attend a meeting to discuss the scheme further with residents prior to the planning committee. All are most welcome.

Once homeless... said...

Homeless are welcome here.

Anonymous said...

Sincerely I think the house should be sold to private owners. Property prices are high, and the cash can be used for far more, better and cheaper to run accomodations for the homeless.

It is sickening to see that property portfolios with such value and expensive maintenance are not exploited to finance better, more modern facilities.

Whatajoke said...

Makes me laugh. I cant afford to live on Manor Avenue but I am paying for other people to do so via my Council taxes etc... In fact there are heaps of Council houses around the conservation area. Usually the ones virtually falling down of course as the tenants dont believe it their responsibility to weed their own gardens.

question said...

What's better a nursery or a hostel?

Anonymous said...

Nursery. At least the kids wont be rough.

L said...

What most of you seem to be forgetting is that people who live in property they own or rent privately cause problems, too. I'm pretty sure most crime and antisocial behaviour in the area is committed by people who don't live in hostels.

Most homeless people, and those with mental health problems or learning disabilities are actually only a danger to themselves, not to other people.

I've worked with that client group for two years and we've never once had a problem beyond a few heated verbal arguments.

It just seems like such a moral panic every time the issue of hostels or sheltered accommodation comes up here and it feels there's a lot of stigma around it.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Never once eh?

Perhaps you were lucky to have worked in a well run establishment with professional staff and docile residents.

There are also poorly run hostels and sometimes the accommodation becomes the home for characters who do not internalise their problems but visit them on other residents and neighbours.

It sometimes goes horribly wrong and dangerous individuals come to live in Brockley. This area goes through periods when there are spates of crime, often perpetrated by a few individuals.

The question is whether Brockley shoulders more than its fair share of this type of burden. Given the number of large poorly maintained houses in the area I suspect it has a lot.

I would like to know more about this hidden side of Brockley and public policies that operate.

Anyone know if this sort of information is in the public domain?

FOMA said...

At Anonymous 5 August 2011 02:41

We informed this site of our position, but our post has been removed.

Soon you will have all the answers and may then make an informed and fair decision.

Brockley Nick said...

@FOMA - no, it wasn't removed, it never appeared. The spam filters didn't like it for some reason (probably due to its length) and blocked it. I have just unblocked it.

Anonymous said...

@02:45 - it is information Cllr Foxtrot could and should ask to the Council for an informed discussion. I am also interested to know the value of the properties owned by the Council and associations in Brockley. Judging by the number of victorian properties they own in the most sought after roads, it must be tens of millions. So is this the best use of public resources or should the money be used more efficiently to help people in need??? There are families of 2 living in 3/4 beds houses, i think it is a disgrace and a lost opportunity for many people in need.

Fascismus Badger said...

The less poor people around here the better.
I have no choice about paying my 30% to charity every month, but I don't want to see the unfortunates it is being spent on, thank you.

Anonymous said...

"London and Quadrant (L&Q) plans to use Avalon House as a “hostel for single homeless people without support needs and many of whom are currently in expensive temporary accommodation or at risk from homelessness.” "

This is madness, the property in question must have a market value of almost £1.5m and the Council receives only £10 a year for it.

This is the most wasteful use of public resources, it is a scandal!!!

IMBY said...

I am quite appalled by the knee-jerk assumption by so many that the people who will be living in the property will automatically be a problem for their neighbours. I fully agree with L that the residents are far more likely to be harmful or cause a problem to themselves than to others.

It would be a huge shame if these sorts of properties were sold off just so that the privileged in society could snap them up. And the more mixed our communities, the better in my opinion. People who don't have homes and have support needs should be supported and we should all do our bit, starting with having some understanding of what causes people to be in such situations in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Not along ago in another part of Lewisham with a high number of hostels of various types a commercial company bought out a care home for the elderly.

The care home no houses offenders who were sectioned and although under supervision at the 'hospital' are free to come and go during the day.

The reason the care home was purchased was because planning permission was not required.

Just along the road a housing association has changed the occupiers of one its properties from single homeless to people of the same ilk as at the 'hospital' but unsupervised.

The local police identified 10-12 hostels, halfway houses in one road.

Many of these units have been placed by councillors, why do they often create this concentrations?

Is it a case of, 'one more won't be noticed' ?

What's the point of the council employing planners if councillors are going to take decisions that are not in the interest of a particular area.

Politicians bang on about betting shops well maybe they need to look at some of their own policy decisions first?

Tressilliana said...

I'd like to see some facts and figures before I decide it's a scandalous waste of money. The property might fetch £1.5 million but how much would purpose-built accommodation cost and where would it go? How much does it save in the long run in healthcare, prison running costs, contributions to tax etc etc if you provide people with decent living accommodation and give them support to get a job?

I hope Fascismus Badger was joking but it's not always easy to tell on the internet.

Chris said...

The map released by DCLG today should give us a better idea of how many council-owned hostels there are in the Brockley area

http://publicassets.communities.gov.uk/

FOMA said...

Thanks Nick.

@IMBY

IMBY said...

"I am quite appalled by the knee-jerk assumption by so many that the people who will be living in the property will automatically be a problem for their neighbours."

The kneejerk reaction was based on having four serious attacks in the street, the secret attempt to introduce the new user group, and yes the type of persons that differed with the claim. And the number of hostels too - 12 and counting. (Facts to be made available. But we will not list the sex offender unit until clearing this with poilce and probation services, if at all.)

"I fully agree with L that the residents are far more likely to be harmful or cause a problem to themselves than to others."

Yes. and wouldn't you say that this was an important factor that destroys your argument? certainly it is one that is guiding our concerns. When a social landlord over-zealously courts tenant who may have challenging behaviour then resident too become part of that challenge.

We would be fools not to want to get the checks and balances right before allowing such a thing, and we believe we have done this by way of the planning process. Something L&Q did not do. In fact three of the vulnerable residents that were catered for by the Avalon House care home group are still here. It was a very well run home actually.

"It would be a huge shame if these sorts of properties were sold off just so that the privileged in society could snap them up. And the more mixed our communities, the better in my opinion. People who don't have homes and have support needs should be supported and we should all do our bit, starting with having some understanding of what causes people to be in such situations in the first place."

Yes yes and yes. Most of the members of FOMA, a diverse bunch, agree with this totally. We have done our 'bit' for a number of years actually - and long may we continue to. This is the reason why we fought so hard to find out what happened to the previous residents - we still do not know where they are, which is a worry.

There are also many familes who need these properties. It's a diverse street, with great neighbours, and we do not ask to see someone's bank balance before they come and live in it.

Chris said...

According to that map the current use of 114 Avalon House is "hostel" rather than "care home".

Anonymous said...

@tresilliana - to build a double fronted 4 floors victorian house from zero and full specs with wooden windows etc, it costs around £650k.(Cost of politics aside) Purpose built cost less.

Where? Well what about the buildings next to the station. I hear half did not sell. Another waste.

In Kidbroke the Council is redeveloping massive areas. The greenwich peninsula is totally undeveloped. A sort of waste land in front of canary wharf.

They could even keep the property turn them into 6 flats, collect £6000+ a month in rent and £6000 a year in council tax. That is almost £80k a year.

The self fulfilling prophecy of the South East continues.

Anonymous said...

Chris, the issue isn't council-owned hostels.

Many of the hostels and care homes in Brockley are in private ownership.

The council wants to divest itself of the problem, and these have been passed into private hands. Not always the right hands.

The worrying thing is the council doesn't seem to know how many hostels there are in Brockley. But then, no one does.

optimist? said...

Has anyone tried requesting the information under the Freedom of Information Act?

Anonymous said...

Isn't that the Freedom (to Slow Down the Flow) of Information Act?

Anonymous said...

Care homes are inspected, there is a list of them here.

http://www.cqc.org.uk/registeredservicesdirectory/rsquicksearch.asp

Well run care homes are sometimes allocated clients who have problems that are far more serious than the level of care available. This is when things can go wrong.

Like all public services, there is preference of clients who are easy rather than difficult and challenging. There is a limit to the level of care that can be provided.

Difficult cases often fall through the public care system and into homeless hostels in the private or charity sector that provide minimal support.

I don't think anyone would object to well run care homes or hostels that get people back on their feet.

There is quite a difference between that and properties that become the home of individuals with serious mental health and addiction problems that do great harm to others as well as themselves. Such people often come to the attention of the police who have the unenviable job of dealing with the consequences. But they are ill and that assessment often puts them right back in the community where they cause further problems.

Make no mistake, Brockley has seen this sort of thing happen and it has a disproportionate effect on the perception of care services. One person can do a great deal of damage.

I guess this is why there is a natural discretion and sensitivity amongst people involved in care work. They try to protect the parts that are doing a fine work, which is often under appreciated.

It does, however, seem like sweeping the problem under the carpet. Things only get done when something bad happens and there is a lot of finger pointing.

Sadly serious issues like this rarely discussed publicly in a balanced manner. The defensiveness of institutions and public services as well as the irrational fears of the public do not make for a balanced debate....and there are certainly no votes to be won.

patrick1971 said...

@Anon 14:18. I agree with all of your post apart from the bit about "irrational fears". I think you're being a bit too hard on residents. Given some of the very public incidents we've seen of the failures of care in the community (e.g. the chap killed in Richmond Park) I don't think it's unreasonable or irrational for residents to have concerns over the location of these facilities, how they're run and who the client group will be.

wheredoisign? said...

OK so let me get this straight. If I work my arse off for 40 hours a week I can only afford to live in a small basement flat outside of the Brockley conservation area but if I stop working, stop paying my rent and hang around Brockley station with a can of Tennants Super begging for money and sleeping on a bench for a few days I get to live in one of the nicest roads in Brockley? Where do I sign?

Anonymous said...

Yes, you get to live in the lap of luxury (??). All you have to do I'd have a complete breakdown of some description. Of you go...

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