Meeting Fails To Reassure Locals Over Changes To Single Mothers' Home

Council plans to refurbish the property in Barrowgate Road to house vulnerable people

Barrowgate Road


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Residents in Barrowgate Road remain concerned over proposals to replace a facility for young mothers with a refurbished property of eleven units for vulnerable people. A meeting was held on Tuesday (12 September) in Chiswick Town Hall to provide information on the proposed change of use of 53 Barrowgate Road.

This property is currently used as accommodation for up to eight vulnerable young mothers with babies. The plan is to change this to supported housing for 11 single young people.

Residents were particularly concerned to understand why the decision had been taken to move the mothers and babies to another facility and replace them with a greater number of single young people. Local people would prefer that the necessary improvements to the accommodation were made to create better facilities for the mothers and babies rather than to redevelop the site beyond what they believe is its reasonable capacity.

A resident said :" We were presented with architects’ plans for the revised layout and for revisions to the building. The house is to be reconfigured to create 11 small single occupancy units and one small office space. We questioned whether this represents an over-development of the site. We raised the question of why the mothers and babies home, a feature of Barrowgate Road’s heritage for many years, was to be replaced by a totally different type of facility. We were told that the reason for this is that the internal layout of the property is not as suitable as it could be for mothers and babies. We feel, however, that given the extensive refurbishment and internal reconfiguration needed to change the property for its new use, it would make more sense to remodel the property to improve the accommodation for the mothers and babies rather than creating more, smaller units."

The meeting at Chiswick Town Hall was for representatives of Look Ahead, the provider who will run the facility, the London Borough of Hounslow and Shepherd’s Bush Housing Group, who own the freehold of the property to present new plans for 53 Barrowgate Road and to answer residents’ questions.

Locals said that the meeting left them with many concerns. For example, the arrangements for running the new facility still seemed to be in the early stages with little detail on offer. Look Ahead and LBH recounted stories relating to some of their other facilities in an effort to reassure residents, but were unable to provide firm details or clear answers to many of our questions. They have raised the following points;

1.We expressed concern that the density of occupancy that is being proposed represents an over-development of the site. Essentially 53 Barrowgate Road was built as a family house. Its conversion to 11 single occupancy units with an office does not seem appropriate. (It is unlikely, for example that planning permission would be granted to convert any of the neighbouring properties into 11 or 12 densely packed bedsits.)

2. Look Ahead were unsure of the policy relating to alcohol and smoking that would be in place at Barrowgate Road. They offered no firm answer on questions about a curfew for loud music and noise. 11pm was mentioned in relation to another Look Ahead facility, but there would appear to be no decisions made as yet with regard to Barrowgate Road.

3. There was no answer available to questions about the policy for visitors and overnight guests at Barrowgate Road.

4. Look Ahead presented no plans to install any security measures designed to protect the immediate neighbours. Barrowgate Road has low garden walls (1.75m) that are easily scaleable. Look Ahead suggested that additional security would be unnecessary.

"Overall, we were alarmed at the lack of detail provided for the proposed running and security of 53 Barrowgate Road. We are troubled by the lack of regard shown for the neighbours and for the character of the community. We asked many questions about the safeguards that might be put in place to protect the neighbours and the community, but no details were provided. In fact, such concerns were often dismissed altogether with an assurance that no such measures would be necessary.

"It is a disappointment to see the mothers and babies home that has been a feature of Barrowgate Road for some 80 years or more and has even featured fondly in Tommy Cooper’s biography treated with such disregard. We believe a far more sensitive and harmonious solution would be to carry out the necessary improvements to the accommodation to create better facilities for the mothers and babies rather than to redevelop the site beyond its reasonable capacity."

Residents in Barrowgate Road are concerned over a plan to change a building which houses single young mothers and babies into a facility of eleven units for vulnerable young people. The property is beside the late comedian Tommy Cooper's former house which was last year awarded an English Heritage blue plaque.

A letter from Hounslow Council was sent out informing local people of the change at , which has led to what one local described as "a high level of concern" amid fears that it could mean the arrival of residents with drug or criminal convictions to a family neighbourhood. Hounslow Council has sought to reassure the concerns by saying there will be 24-hour supervision.

Some locals have complained that Hounslow Council's letter was "evasive" and that they have not been consulted on the matter. One local said that they were told (on the phone) the young people would need a high level of support.

An information meeting is to be held at Chiswick Town Hall on Tuesday, September 12th from 3-8 pm with representatives of Hounslow Council and the Shepherd's Bush Housing Group on hand to answer questions.

One resident said that the house was originally left to the Diocese in a will which stipulated that it would be used as a facility for charity which would cause 'no detriment' to the neighbourhood. However this could not be confirmed by before going to press.

The house was sold several years ago to the Shepherd's Bush Housing Group, which also owns the St Margaret's facility for young people nearby on Sutton Court Road.

One local said: "It's not been a picnic having some of these young women as neighbours- I've heard rows in the street for example. But we are used to this facility being here. I would rather see the single mums here than a mixed group- how do we know who will be living in the house or what sort of supervision there will be, when there are families living in this in area with young children?"

Hounslow Council has said there will be 24-hour supervision. The Council proposes making alterations to the ground floor of the house to provide eleven units for people aged from 16-25. The Look Ahead group has now been appointed to manage the new facility. In effect, the Shepherd's Bush Housing Group will be the landlord of the property it formerly managed. A similar change in management is proposed for St Margaret's home. It is thought the young mothers will be accommodated in a facility in Hounslow.

A robust debate has been taking place on the issue on our forum - Barrowgate Road is a leafy and expensive area of Chiswick .

Hounslow Council say the change has come about as a result of a review of the provision of young people's services in the borough and that the facility at Barrowgate Road was not suitable for mothers and babies because the flats were too small. A similar change is proposed to another facility at Bath Road, Chiswick.

Councillor Tom Bruce, Cabinet Member for Education, Children’s Services and Youth Services, Hounslow Council, said: “Following a review of provision and the need for young people and young parent accommodation in the borough, Hounslow Council’s Joint Commissioning Team working with Children’s Services, identified a need for additional supported accommodation which could better meet the needs of vulnerable young people including those leaving care.

“When assessing buildings, it was identified that 53 Barrowgate Road was not suitable for mothers and babies because of the small size of the studio flats. Therefore, the project team decided to use the building for the support of single young people including those leaving care and another building with larger one bedroom flats for mothers and babies.

“The Council will be holding an information event for residents who live in neighbouring properties on Tuesday 12 September, from 3pm-8pm, at Chiswick Town Hall, W4 4JN.

“Ward councillors have been invited. Officers from the Council’s Joint Commissioning team will be there, along with Look Ahead who will deliver the support for the young people, the architects and representatives from Shepherds Bush Housing to answer questions. The plans are to increase the level and expertise of the support at the site including the provision of 24 hour staffing cover and we have awarded the contract to Look Ahead because they are a specialist organisation in supporting young people and managing any issues that may arise.

Shepherd's Bush Housing Group said in a statement to "We own 53 Barrowgate Road and have managed the supported housing there for many years. As part of the re-tendering of the service, the management contract was awarded to Look Ahead who are highly experienced in delivering excellently managed support for young people. Look Ahead are specialists in delivering supported housing to over 6000 service users per year. The meeting on Tuesday will be a chance for local residents to review plans and meet Hounslow Council, Look Ahead and us."

The Council's letter to residents said that Look Ahead provided support to 1200 young people in 12 local authorities, who were making the transition to adulthood and independence.

September 16, 2017

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