Anger as Barnet’s homeless move to Peterborough

Residents   of St Michael's Gate gather from a protest against eviction. EMN-161113-172516009
Residents of St Michael's Gate gather from a protest against eviction. EMN-161113-172516009
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Homeless families from Barnet have been moved into Peterborough despite the city’s housing crisis forcing local people to wait more than a year for a home.

Barnet Council bought 28 city properties in May which it is currently using as temporary accommodation for its homeless residents.

Peterborough City Council said it was “extremely disappointed” to discover the news through the Peterborough Telegraph and not be given any notice by Barnet to prepare for the “additional strain” on resources.

At the start of September there were just over 300 households in temporary accommodation in Peterborough, with 110 put up in hotels or bed and breakfasts.

This is despite the city council doing a deal last year to use 72 houses at St Michael’s Gate in Parnwell as temporary accommodation after a private housing firm had evicted the existing tenants.

The council argued that if it did not use the homes a London borough would take them instead for the same purpose.

UKIP city councillor John Whitby said: “If I was senior in the council I would be absolutely furious, especially if the council had not been told.

“It’s appalling that a council can actually go into another council’s area where they have housing problems of their own, without any notification or warning, and purchase housing to move people in.

“All cities need protection from that.”

Following the St Michael’s Gate deal the PT has campaigned to prevent councils from moving homeless families to another area without the permission of the host council.

In Peterborough, last year the council overspent by £1 million from putting homeless families in Travelodges. The city has seen the number of households needing temporary accommodation rise three-fold from 97 at the same time in 2015.

A spokesperson for Barnet Homes, which bought the homes for Barnet Council, said it had informed Peterborough City Council about the purchasing of the homes “as part of our completion process and through council tax registration.”

However, city council leader Cllr John Holdich said: “We have learnt that officers at the London borough did agree to forewarn and engage with us during a meeting in May to mitigate what they saw as a potentially unpopular decision. Unfortunately, this never materialised.”

Adrian Chapman, service director for community and safety service, said the council was “extremely disappointed” not to have been contacted.

He added: “We are now unable to properly plan for the additional strain this will place on the city’s resources, including schools, health and social care.”

The Barnet Homes spokesperson added: “Schemes such as this play an important part in helping to provide homes for those who cannot afford to live in London.

“The scheme has already helped provide homes for a number of households. No tenants were living in the properties when we acquired them with vacant possession.”

The spokesperson, when asked by the Peterborough Telegraph where the properties are and how much they cost, said the information is the subject of a Freedom of Information request which will be shared out at the end of September.

However, the council’s website lists purchases of £130,000 to £135,000, not including stamp duty, at properties in Bretton, Orton Goldhay, Westwood and Ravensthorpe.

Liberal Democrat city council Nick Sandford said: “We can’t prevent another local authority from coming in and purchasing houses in Peterborough, but what Peterborough City Council has to do is ensure we have an adequate range of housing.”

Council wants action from MPs

Peterborough City Council want the city’s MPs to prevent a similar incident from occurring in Peterborough again.

Adrian Chapman, service director for community and safety services, said: “Last year when we agreed to make use of properties at St Michael’s Gate we said that we believed if we didn’t, another council, specifically a London borough, would have. Although there were some people who disputed this, the decision by Barnet points to the fact that our assumption was likely true.

“We will now be contacting Barnet Council about its intentions, not least so we can start to plan for the extra residents this decision will create. We will also be asking our MPs to raise the matter in parliament, as legislation change is the only way we can prevent a situation like this from occurring again.”

He added: “We are currently in negotiations on a number of sites in the city to provide additional housing. Earlier this year we agreed use of 53 temporary homes at Elizabeth Court and recently received funding from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority to progress two developments that will deliver almost 200 affordable properties in the city.”