Residents fight HMO proposal

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News

A move to provide temporary emergency housing for families and pregnant women in Bury St Edmunds has met with strong opposition from neighbours.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council wants to convert a bed and breakfast property in Newmarket Road into a house of multiple occupancy providing seven temporary units for homeless families and pregnant women.

The council is set to purchase the privately owned house subject to planning permisison being granted by its development control commitete on Thursday.

Abbotts House currently provides 11 double and single bedrooms and while the council places some homeless households there it has no control over placements made by other organisations.

A petition from residents in Newmarket Road states the plan breaches their Human Rights and calls on the council to restore the building to a private single family home.

Residents have complained about noise and disturbance, drug use and anti social behaviour and say an HMO is out of character with the area.

The conversion to an HMO is part of St Edmundsbury’s strategy to minimise its use of bed and breakfast accommodation. Its homelessness strategy states there is a need for 15 temporary units.

With the Newmarket Road site and one already operating in Lake Avenue the council would have 12 units.

The property would be managed by a housing organisations such as a housing association and the council would have full control over placements.

It states: “With these safeguards in place, combined with the proposed client group, it is expected that there should be a lot less disturbance at the property than is presently experienced by local residents as a result of the private sector B & B use.”

Cllr Julia Wakelam said: “We can’t keep placing people in expensive B & B. This is a sticking plaster on the problem as we don’t have enough affordable social housing and house prices are unaffordable for huge numbers of people.”

Cllr Sara Mildmay-White, St Edmundsbury Borough Council Cabinet member for housing, said: “In converting this privately owned B&B into council-run temporary accommodation for local homeless families and pregnant women, we aim to help the residents re-establish themselves and reduce the council’s bed and breakfast bill.

“The plan is dependent on planning permission. If granted, the council will have full control about which residents are placed there, rather than individuals with complex issues who are understood to make up some of the current residents. The property will be professionally managed with 24/7 support.

“Local residents will be able to report any concerns and be assured they will be addressed.”